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Full text of "The English works of George Herbert"

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Digitized by the Internet Archive 
in 2013 



http://archive.org/details/englishworksofge01herb 



THE ENGLISH WORKS OF 
GEORGE HERBERT 

IN SIX VOLUMES 
I 



THE ENGLISH WORKS OF 

(sJeorge [Zierbert 

EDITED BY GEORGE HERBERT PALMER 



VOLUME ONE 

ESSAYS 




BOSTON AND NEW YORK 

HOUGHTON MIFFLIN AND COMPANY 

MDCCCCV 



COPYRIGHT 1905 BY GEORGE HERBERT PALMER 
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED 

THIS LARGE-PAPER EDITION IN SIX VOLUMES 

IS LIMITED TO 150 COPIES 
PRINTED FROM TYPE AT THE RIVERSIDE PRESS 
CAMBRIDGE, MASS., U.S.A. 
NO. /^^ 



TABLE OF CONTENTS 
VOLUME I 

CHRONOLOGY page i 

INTRODUCTORY ESSAYS 

I. THE LIFE 15 

n. THE MAN 47 

in. THE RELIGIOUS POETRY 85 

IV. THE STYLE 121 

V. THE TEXT AND ORDER 169 



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 
VOLUME I 

White's Drawing frontispiece 

White's Engraving in The Temple, 1674 page 14 
Sturt's Engraving in The Temple, 1709 46 

Page of the Bodleian Manuscript 84 

English Poem from the Williams Manuscript 120 
Latin Poems from the Williams Manuscript 168 



PREFACE 



PREFACE 

THERE are few to whom this book will seem 
worth while. It embodies long labor, spent 
on a minor poet, and will probably never be read 
entire by any one. But that is a reason for its exist- 
ence. Lavishness is in its aim. The book is a box 
of spikenard, poured in unappeasable love over one 
who has attended my Ufe. When I lay in my cradle, 
a devotee of Herbert gave me the old poet's name, 
so securing him for my godfather. Before I could 
well read, I knew a large part of his verse, — not 
its meaning, but (what was more important then) 
its large diction, flexible rhythms, and stimulating 
mysteries. As I grew, the wisdom hidden in the 
strange lines was gradually disclosed, and in daily 
experience. 

His words did finde me out, and parcdlels bring, 
And in another make me understood. 

For fifty years, with suitable fluctuations of inti- 
macy, he has been my bounteous comrade. And 
while his elaborate ecclesiasticism has often re- 
pelled me, a Puritan, and his special type of self- 
centred piety has not attracted, he has rendered 
me profoundly grateful for what he has shown of 
himself, — the struggling soul, the high-bred gen- 



xii PREFACE 

tleman, the sagacious observer, the master of lan- 
guage, the persistent artist. I could not die in peace, 
if I did not raise a costly monument to his benefi- 
cent memory. 

It would be a mistake, however, to suppose that 
an elaborate edition of a subordinate poet is excus- 
able only on grounds of personal devotion. There 
are public reasons too. The tendencies of an age 
appear more distinctly in its writers of inferior 
rank than in those of commanding genius. These 
latter tell of past and future as well as of the years 
in which they live. They are for all time. But 
on the sensitive, responsive souls, of less creative 
power, current ideals record themselves with clear- 
ness. Whoever, then, values literary history will be 
glad to seek out the gentle and incomplete poet, be 
wilUng for a while to dwell dispassionately in his 
narrow surroundings, without praise or blame will 
examine his numbered thoughts, and never forget 
that even restricted times and poets work out neces- 
sary elements of human nature and appropriately 
further its growth. A small writer so studied be- 
comes large. So would I study Herbert, laying 
chief stress on his psychological, social, and liter- 
ary significance, and marking his connection with 
the world-movements of his age. 

That there is room for such a study, a brief 
sketch of the present condition of Herbert-scholar- 
ship will show. His poetry has had two periods of 
popularity and a century of neglect. He has been 



PREFACE xiii 

revived after an interval, and even now has not 
quite come to his own. Between his death, in 1633, 
and 1709 thirteen editions were pubUshed. He so 
immediately hit the taste of his day that in the first 
year a second edition of his book was called for, 
and in 1670 Walton estimated that twenty thou- 
sand copies had been sold. But between 1709 and 
1799 not a single edition appeared. Herbert was 
despised, and only here and there a Cowper ad- 
mired him. At the opening of the nineteenth cen- 
tury Coleridge called attention to him again; and 
in 1835 Pickering began to publish editions of his 
works more complete than had ever before ap- 
peared. The period of Romanticism was at hand, 
the Oxford ecclesiastical movement, and the inter- 
est in our early literature, — all influences favorable 
to Herbert. In 1874 Dr. Grosart brought to Hght 
the important WilHams Manuscript and edited his 
two elaborate editions. Unhappily he left a worse 
text than he found ; and when he attempted a 
reprint of Ferrar's first edition, he seriously dam- 
aged its w^orth by careless proof-reading. In 1899 
Dr. Gibson was more successful in reproducing 
the original text and in adding the readings of the 
WilHams Manuscript. During the last quarter 
century a new edition of Herbert has appeared 
almost every other year. 

Yet in this period of Herbert's second popularity 
he is more bought than read. Half a dozen of his 
poems are famous; but the remainder, many of 



xiv PREFACE 

them equally fitted for household words, nobody 
looks at. They lie hidden beneath ancestral en- 
cumbrances which editors have not had the cour- 
age to clear away. A fairly accurate text has been 
established, but the arrangement of the book pre- 
serves its original chaos. No attempt has ever been 
made to set the poems in intelligible order. The 
many religious, artistic, and personal problems 
which they involve remain unexamined. Probably 
no other poet except Donne stands so much in need 
of elucidation. Yet only half a dozen editions of 
Herbert have any notes, and these are generally 
sHght and copied from book to book. Perhaps edi- 
tors have feared to come to close quarters with him, 
knowing how much there is to do. How loosely he 
is published appears in the fact that his book is 
still without an index of first lines. Present means 
of access to him are, in short, elementary. 

It is these defects, then, which I would meet. 
Let there be applied to Herbert those comparative 
and encyclopaedic methods which have already 
been accorded to Chaucer, Shakespeare, Milton, 
Pope, Byron, Wordsworth, Shelley, Tennyson, and 
Browning. No one man can accomplish so much. 
But a beginning may be made, and to it I seem to 
be called by a long and enriching intimacy. This 
book will not supersede the many handy editions 
which are issued for devotional purposes. They 
will still serve their hallowed ends. My aim is dif- 
ferent. I am attempting a kind of critical diction- 



PREFACE XV 

ary of Herbert, in which his meaning may be sys- 
tematically fixed with reference to the text itself, 
to the facts of the author's life, and to the literary 
conditions under which his poetry arose. 

My plan is this : After a chronological survey of 
his age, such matters as are essential to a general 
understanding of his poetry are discussed in a 
series of Introductory Essays. These deal with the 
events of his Ufe, the traits of his character, the 
type of his reHgious verse, the technique of his 
expression, and our means of knowing what he 
wrote. The most important of them for an under- 
standing of my book — and the one which should 
be read by whoever can read but one — is the last, 
on the text and order. It there appears that no exact 
chronological arrangement of the poems is possible. 
By using, however, certain broad indications of 
time, and combining them vdth the subject-mat- 
ter, I am able to form twelve significant Groups. 
To the Groups brief Prefaces are prefixed, giving 
the reasons for putting together these particular 
poems, and indicating the features of Herbert's 
life which they involve. By this association of 
Essays, Prefaces, and Groups of poems I hope 
my poet may find that opportunity for self-por- 
traiture which a prose writer usually obtains in a 
Life and Letters. 

Desiring the book to be a Variorum Edition, I 
have gathered into it whatever of importance has 
been proposed by previous commentators, and 



xvi PREFACE 

have myself steadily turned toward fulness of 
comment ; but a simple classification renders the 
voluminous notes easy of reference. All are not 
intended for any one person. They are of five 
sorts: explanations of words, of phrases, of con- 
nections of thought, similar passages in Herbert, 
and similar passages in his contemporaries. Some 
notes are for beginners, who want to know what 
this antique and cloudy poet is talking about. For 
them I try to copie fair what time hath hlurr'd, and 
offer a paraphrase of every sentence at which a 
fairly intelligent person might hesitate. Others are 
for those who already know Herbert so well that 
they would like to apply a microscope and develop 
his minuter beauties. For them I treat of subtler 
matters, and especially for them are intended the 
cross-references, showing Herbert's curious tena- 
city of thought and even of phrase. By these he 
is made to comment on himself, and out of his own 
mouth to explain his peculiar locutions. Wherever, 
too, in his prose writings similar thoughts or words 
occur, I quote the passages; as I also bring out of 
Ferrar, Oley, or Walton whatever illustration those 
early eulogists afford. 

To trace the external sources from which Her- 
bert derived material is uncertain business. I have 
ventured on it sparingly. Wide as his learning is, 
he has fully assimilated it, and rarely quotes or 
directly mentions other writers. Yet his incessant 
allusion to the Bible is so evident that I have felt 



PREFACE xvii 

obliged to refer to such Biblical phrases as he 
probably had in mind. And rarely as he mentions 
contemporary poets, I have thought it instructive 
to cite parallel passages from those who immedi- 
ately preceded him; but I offer no opinion about 
the nature or degree of his debts. Donne, how- 
ever, may fairly be called his master, and to Donne 
his obHgations are of a more palpable sort. Among 
those who came after him, Henry Vaughan was in 
so special a sense his follower, besides being him- 
self a deHcate and highly individual poet, that I 
have felt justified in calUng attention to his longer 
imitations. To trace his smaller ones would be 
tedious, as Vaughan seldom writes a dozen hues 
without remembrance of Herbert. 

In the photographic illustrations I attempt to 
exhibit whatever portions of Herbert's visible 
world have survived the centuries. Here are the 
homes of his childhood, youth, and maturity; here 
the many churches with which in divers ways his 
hfe was connected ; here are his portraits, the 
original drawing and the two early engravings 
from it ; here the handwriting of his ordination 
subscriptions, preserved in the Record Oflice at 
SaHsbury ; and here that hand may again be 
traced in pages of the manuscripts of his poems. 
While these things can afford no such pleasure to 
one who finds them in a book as to him who has 
gathered them by pilgrimage to every spot where 
Herbert's feet have stood, I believe they will all 



x\dii PREFACE 

be looked at with interest; and some, especially 
the handwriting and White's drawing, will throw 
fresh Ught on problems of the verse. 

My first plan was to publish only the poems, and 
I still desire to concentrate attention on them, pay- 
ing little regard to anything else. The Country 
Parson, however, itself almost a poem, has such 
intimate relations with The Temple that each 
suffers in the other's absence. The letters, too, can 
hardly be omitted. Better than anything else they 
show Herbert in his every-day dress, especially in 
the years before he became a priest. The beauty of 
the translation of Cornaro, and the theologic inter- 
est of the notes on Valdesso, justify their inclusion. 
When these are added, we have the complete Eng- 
Ush works of Herbert; for nothing is his in the 
Jacula Prudentum except the collection, and at 
least two thirds of that is the work of later editors. 

I cannot bring myself to include the Latin 
verse. It would double the size of my book and 
halve its quality. Unless Latin verse is excellent it 
is worthless ; and surely no one will call Herbert's 
excellent. The reasons for its inferiority are ob- 
scure. With his lifelong practice in Latin, with his 
love of refinement, condensation, and verbal ele- 
gance, one might expect from Herbert as exquisite 
Latin poetry as Milton wrote. But unless my judg- 
ment is at fault, it is ordinary and conventional. 
He would be a hardy adventurer who should read 
five successive pages of it. But Herbert wrote a 



PREFACE xix 

hundred pages, and added more in Greek. The 
Latin orations, also, and the Latin letters are too 
stilted and official for ordinary mortals. When 
Herbert touches Latin, he leaves simpUcity behind. 
I omit these pieces, then, not merely because they 
are uninteresting, but because they reveal so little 
of the man. 

While I have derived much from those who have 
previously written about Herbert, especially from 
Coleridge, Willmott, Macdonald, Palgrave, Gro- 
sart, and Beeching, my most stimulating aid has 
come by word of mouth. In the ten years during 
which my book has been growing, friends have 
made generous gifts of suggestion and criticism. 
Especially large are my obHgations to Mr. Lewis 
Kennedy Morse of Boston, the best Herbert 
scholar of my acquaintance and my perpetually 
watchful helper ; to Miss Lucy Sprague of the 
University of California, who, in pursuance of 
studies in Herbert, subjected the whole body of my 
notes to a searching revision ; to my brother, Rev. 
Frederic Palmer of Andover, who so freely placed 
at my disposal his minute knowledge of ecclesi- 
astical conditions under the Stuarts that parts of 
my discussion, especially the seventh section of the 
second Essay, may be said to have been supplied 
by him; to Professor A. V. G. Allen of the Epis- 
copal Theological School, Cambridge, for similar 
guidance in the broader fields of church history; 
to Professor J. B. Fletcher of Columbia Univer- 



XX PREFACE 

sity, for help in comparative literature ; to Pro- 
fessor Charles Eliot Norton for many valued con- 
sultations, besides the loan and gift of precious 
books; and to the late Dr. Horace E. Scudder of 
Cambridge, for granting me during long years a 
share in that sober judgment of literary products 
and that imaginative guidance of inexperienced 
writers on which he was ever wont to expend 
liimself. 

All this aid, however, is insignificant compared 
with that furnished by my wife, Alice Freeman 
Palmer. In reality the book is only half mine. It 
was begun at her instance, enriched by her daily 
contributions, sustained through difficulties by her 
resourceful courage, the tedium of its mechanical 
part lightened by her ever ready fingers. When 
she was dying she asked for its speedy publication. 
Alas, that she should not see what through more 
than half her married life she eagerly foresaw, and 
that the book must miss that ultimate perfection 
which her full cooperation might have secured ! 

Harvaed Universitt, 
March 19, 1905. 



CHRONOLOGY 



CHRONOLOGY 

The dates of this list are stated according to the New Style 
of reckoning. Those printedin small capitals refer to Herbert 
and his immediate circle ; those in italics, to political and 
public events ; those in ordinary type, to literature. 

1580. Montaigne's Essais, Bks. I, II. 

1581. Tasso's Gerusalemme Liberata. 

1583. Edward Herbert, George Herbert's 
eldest brother, born. 

1584. Giordano Bruno's Delia Causa, and Dell' 
Infinito Universo. 

1585. Pierre de Ronsard dies. 

1586. Sir Philip Sidney killed at Ziitphen. 

1588. G. Fletcher, Hobbes, and Wither born. 
Defeat of Spanish Armada. 

1589. Henry IV King of France. 

1590. Sidney's Arcadia. Spenser's Faerie Queene, 
Bks. I-III. 

1591. Sidney's Astrophel and Stella. Shake- 
speare's Plays begun. Herrick born. 

1592. Quarles born. Montaigne dies. 

1593. April 3. George Herbert born at 
Montgomery Castle, North Wales. 



4 CHRONOLOGY 

Ferrar and Walton born. Marlowe dies. 

1594. Hooker's Ecclesiastical Polity, Bks. I- 
IV. 

1595. Sidney's Apology for Poetry. Spenser's 
Colin Clout. Tasso dies. 

1596. Edward Herbert matriculates at Uni- 
versity College, Oxford. 

Spenser's Faerie Queene, Bks. IV-VI. 

1597. Richard Herbert, George Herbert's 
father, dies. 

Bishop Hall's Satires. Bacon's Essays. 

1598. Lady Herbert moves to Oxford. 
Chapman's Iliad. Jonsdn's Every Man in 
His Humor. 

Edict of Nantes. Philip II of Spain dies. 

1599. Globe Theatre built. Davies' Nosce 
Teipsum. Spenser dies. 

1600. Monument to Richard Herbert 

ERECTED in MONTGOMERY ChURCH. 

G. Bruno and Hooker die. 

1601. John Donne marries Anne More. 

1602. Bodleian Library founded. 

1603. Lady Herbert moves to London. 
Elizabeth dies, James I succeeding. Plague 
in Oxford. 

1604. Hampton Court Conference. 



CHRONOLOGY 5 

Melville's Anti-Tami-Cami-Categoria. 

1605. Herbert enters Westminster School. 
Bacon's Advancement of Learning. Sir 
T. Browne born. 

Crunpowder Plot. 

1606. Waller and Corneille born. Lyly dies. 

1607. Jamestown, Virginia, founded. 

1608. Edward Herbert goes abroad. 
Beaumont and Fletcher's Philaster. Mil- 
ton born. 

1609. Lady Herbert marries Sir John Dan- 
VERS. George Herbert appointed King's 
Scholar at Trinity College, Cam- 
bridge, May 5; and matriculates De- 
cember 18. 

Shakespeare's Sonnets published. 
Robinson's Puritans settle at Leyden. 

1610. George Herbert's Sonnets to his Mo- 
ther. 

John Fletcher's Faithful Shepherdess. Giles 
Fletcher's Christ's Victorie. 
The Great Contract. Henry IV oj France 
assassinated, Louis XIII succeeding, 

1611. Translation of the Bible. 

1612. Herbert takes B. A. Degree. His two 
Latin poems on the death of Prince 



6 CHRONOLOGY 

Henry printed in Cambridge Collec- 
tion OF Elegies. 

Webster's White Devil. Samuel Butler 
born. 
Death of Prince Henry. 

1613. Drayton's Polyolbion. Browne's Britannia's 
Pastorals. Crashaw and Jeremy Taylor 
born. 

The Princess Elizabeth marries Frederic V, 
Elector Palatine. Death of Sir T. Over- 
bury. 

1614. Herbert appointed Minor Fellow. 
Ralegh's History of the World. Henry 
More, the Cambridge Platonist, born. 

1615. Wither's Shepherd's Hunting. Baxter and 
Denham born. 

1616. Herbert takes his M. A. Degree, and 
IS APPOINTED Major Fellow. 
Shakespeare and Cervantes die. 
Condemnation of Somerset. Rise of Buck- 
ingham. 

1617. Herbert appointed Sublector Quartae 
Classis at Trinity. 

Cudworth bom. Donne's wife dies. 

1618. Herbert appointed Praelector in Rhe- 
toric. 



CHRONOLOGY 7 

Cowley and Lovelace born. 

Execution of Ralegh. Beginning of Thirty 

Years' War, 

1619. Herbert appointed Public Orator at 
Cambridge. His Latin poem on Death 
OF Queen Anne printed in Cambridge 
Collection of Elegies. Edward Her- 
bert APPOINTED Ambassador to France. 
Visit of Ben Jonson to Drummond of 
Hawthomden. Campion and Daniel die. 

1620. Herbert writes thanking the King for 
HIS Basilikon Doron, and Bacon for 
HIS Instauratio Magna. 

Marvell born. 

Plymouth in New England settled. 

1621. Donne becomes Dean of St. Paul's. Bur- 
ton's Anatomy of Melancholy. 

Fall of Bacon. 

1622. Vaughan and Moliere born. Andrew 
Melville dies. 

1623. Herbert receives from the King the 
sinecure lay Rectorship of Whitford. 
Oratio qua Auspicatissimi Serenissimum 
Principis Caroli Reditum ex Hispaniis 
Celebravit Georgius Herbert. Oratio 
Domini Georgii Herbert Habita coram 



8 CHRONOLOGY 

DoMiNis Legatis cum Magistro in Artib. 

TiTULis Insignirentur. His brother 

Henry appointed Master of the Revels 

AT Court and knighted. 

First folio of Shakespeare published. 

Pascal born. 

Duke of Richmond dies. 

1624. Edward Herbert recalled from Paris, 

AND publishes HIS De VeRITATE. 

George Fox horn, Duke of Lenox dies. 

1625. Bacon dedicates to Herbert certain 
Psalms. 

Milton matriculates at Christ's College, 
Cambridge. Grotius' De Jure Belli et 
Pacis. John Fletcher and Lodge die. 
Plague in Lmidon. King James dies, 
Charles I succeeding. Marquis of Hamilton 
dies. 

1626. Herbert appointed Prebendary of 
Leighton Ecclesia in Diocese of Lin- 
coln. 

Ferrar settles at Little Gidding. Bishop 
Andrewes, Bacon, and Sir J. Davies die. 
War declared dgainst France. 

1627. Herbert's mother dies. He resigns the 
Oratorship. His Parentalia (Latin 



CHRONOLOGY 9 

AND Greek poems) appended to Donne's 
Sermon in Commemoration of Lady 
Danvers. 
Bossuet born. 

1628. Herbert, threatened with consump- 
tion, VISITS his brother Henry at 
Woodford, Essex. Sir John Danvers 
MARRIES Elizabeth Dauntsey. 
Bunyan born. 

Petition of Right. Wentworth President of 
Council of North. Laud Bishop of London. 
Assassination of Buckingham. 

1629. Herbert living at Dauntsey, Wilts, 
with the Earl of Danby, Sir John 
Danvers' eldest brother. Marries 
Jane Danvers, March 5. Edward Her- 
bert made Baron of Cherbury. 
Parliament dissolved for eleven years. 

1630. Herbert instituted at Bemerton, 
April 26. Ordained Priest, September 
19. William, Earl of Pembroke, dies, 
April 10, his brother Philip succeed- 
ing. 

Settlement of Boston^ Massachusetts. 

1631. Dryden bom. Donne and Drayton die. 

1632. Herbert sends notes on Valdesso to 



10 CHRONOLOGY 

Ferrar. His niece, Dorothy Vaughan, 

DIES AT BeMERTON. 

Locke and Spinoza born. 

Battle of Lutzen and death of Gustavus 

Adoljphus. 

1633. Herbert buried at Bemerton, March 3. 
His Will proved March 12. The Temple 
published at cambridge, some undated 

COPIES AND TWO EDITIONS. (ThE OTHER 
EDITIONS OF THE SEVENTEENTH CENTURY 

ARE 1634, 1635, 1638, 1641 with Syna- 
gogue AND Table, 1656, 1660, 1667, 1674 
WITH Portrait and Life, 1679, 1695.) 
Laud Archbishop of Canterbury. Went- 
worth Lord Deputy of Ireland. Galileo ab- 
jures Copernican system. 

1634. A Treatise of Temperance and Sobri- 
ety translated from the Italian of 
LuD. Cornarus by Herbert, and pub- 
lished WITH A TRANSLATION OF LEONARD 

Lessius' Latin Hygiasticon, and a trans- 
lation OF AN ANONYMOUS ITALIAN DIS- 
COURSE ON Temperance. 
Crashaw's first publication, Epigrammata 
Sacra. Milton's Comus acted. Chapman 
and Marston die. 



CHRONOLOGY 11 

1637. Herbert's widow marries Sir Robert 
Cook of Highnam Court, Gloucester- 
shire. 

Nicholas Ferrar dies. 

1638. Ferrar's Translation of The Divine 
Considerations of John Valdesso, 
containing a letter and notes by 
Herbert. 

1640. Outlandish Proverbs selected by Mr. 

G. H. 
1645. Highnam Court burned. R. White, 

ENGRAVER OF HeRBERT's PORTRAIT, BORN. 

1652. Herbert's Remains, containing a Life 
BY B. Oley, a Priest to the Temple, 
Jacula Prudentum (with title-page 
DATED 1651), Prayer Before and After 
Sermon, the Letter to Ferrar on Val- 
desso, TWO Latin poems to Bacon and 
one to Donne, with An Addition of 
Apothegmes by Severall Authours. 

1655. Sir John Danvers dies. 

1662. Georgii Herberti, Angli Musae Re- 
sponsoriae ad Andreae Melvini, Scoti, 
Anti-Tami-Cami-Categoriam, appended 
TO Ecclesiastes Solomonis, per Ja. Du- 

PORT. 



U CHRONOLOGY 

1665. Lady Cook dies at Highnam. 

1670. The Life of Mr. George Herbert 

WRITTEN BY IzAAK WaLTON. To WHICH 

are added some letters written by 
Mr. George Herbert at his being in 
Cambridge, with others to his mother, 
THE Lady Magdalen Herbert. (Six not 

BEFORE PRINTED. ThE LiFE OF HERBERT 
WAS ADDED TO THE OTHER LiVES WRIT- 
TEN BY Walton, and all were published 

TOGETHER IN THE SAME YEAR.) 

1671. A Priest to the Temple. The sec- 
ond EDITION, WITH A NEW PREFACE BY 

B. Oley. (The first separate edition.) 
1764. Autobiography of Edward, Lord Her- 
bert OF Cherbury, first published 
BY Horace Walpole, Strawberry Hill 
Press. (Best critical edition, edited 
BY Sidney Lee, 1886.) 
1818. Epistolary Curiosities, edited by Re- 
becca Warner, containing four addi- 
tional letters. 
1835. Pickering's Edition of Herbert's 
Works, containing Coleridge's annota- 
tions, adding seventeen Latin letters 
FROM THE Orator's book at Cambridge, 



CHRONOLOGY 13 

SEVERAL Latin poems, and an English 

POEM SUPPOSED TO BE BY HIM. 

1874. Rev. A. B. Grosart's Edition of Her- 
bert's Works, adding six English poems 

AND two groups OF LaTIN POEMS (EN- 
TITLED Passio Discerpta and Lucus) 
from the Ms. in the Williams Library, 
also seven Psalms possibly by Herbert. 
1893. Life of George Herbert, by J. J. Dan- 

lELL, published BY ThE SoCIETY FOR 

Promoting Christian Knowledge. (Re- 
vised edition in 1898.) 




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I 

OUTLINES OF THE LIFE 



OUTLINES OF THE LIFE 
I 

THE brief period of Herbert's life forms a turn- 
ing-point in English history. Whatever oc- 
curred before it seems ancient ; whatever after, 
modern. Within its compass of forty years are 
included nearly a quarter of Elizabeth's reign, 
the whole of that of James, and a third of that of 
Charles. While the third centennial of Herbert's 
birth was passed twelve years ago, he being born 
but a century after Columbus set sail and but five 
years after the Armada, he lived through half of the 
Thirty Years' War. He saw the beginning of the 
religious colonization of America, and almost its 
end. During his life the institutions of England 
and the temper of its people underwent radical 
change ; a novel religious spirit appeared, soon 
showing revolutionary power ; from healthy ob- 
jectivity men's minds turned to introspection, per- 
sonal interests taking the place of national. At his 
birth English literature was in its infancy; at his 
death it had become one of the great literatures of 
the world and was already in decline. Enumerat- 
ing all the notable English writers who died before 
Herbert was bom, we arrive at little more than a 



18 THE LIFE 

dozen. There is far-away Chaucer and his imme- 
diate group, Wiclif, Gower, Lydgate, and the au- 
thor of Piers Plowman. In another century come 
Malory, Skelton, and the Balladists. Just preced- 
ing Herbert's birth appear Tyndale, Coverdale, 
More, Foxe, Ascham, Wyatt, Surrey, Gascoigne, 
Sidney. All the rest of our vast company of writ- 
ers were either the contemporaries or successors 
of Herbert. In his childhood the plays of Lyly, 
Greene, Peele, and Nashe were still being printed, 
the first books of Spenser's Faerie Queene had 
just appeared, those of Hooker's Ecclesiastical 
Polity being issued in Herbert's second year. 
Shakespeare was busy with his poems and his 
early plays. Neither Marlowe's Edward II, nor 
Sidney's Apology for Poetry, nor Chapman's Iliad, 
nor Bacon's Essays were yet printed. But when 
Herbert died, the period of constructive develop- 
ment in the drama, the lyric, the sonnet, was over. 
Locke and Dry den were born; Davenant, Ran- 
dolph, and Shirley were in vogue upon the stage; 
Cowley's and Crashaw's first works were being 
published. Most of the great Elizabethans were 
in their graves ; where Donne, the leader of the 
new poetry, had recently joined them. Milton's 
Hymn On the Nativity, his Allegro and Penseroso, 
were written, and in the following year his Comus 
was acted. A period of equal length more markedly 
transitional cannot be found in English history. 
Living at a time when our literature reached 



THE LIFE 19 

such sudden and briefly sustained eminence, Her- 
bert enjoyed the society of a wonderful company of 
EngHshmen. An anonymous reviewer has gathered 
his associates into a few picturesque groups : " Her- 
bert was a resident of London before the glorious 
names which have made the reign of Elizabeth 
bright to all generations had become names only, 
— when Camden, Selden, Ralegh, Sackville, Dray- 
ton, most of our great dramatists, and Shakespeare 
himself walked our streets. He was at Cambridge 
when Herrick, Giles Fletcher, Fanshawe, Jeremy 
Taylor, Milton, Cromwell, were fellow students; 
and was a visitant at a court to whose pleasures 
Inigo Jones, Marston, Middleton, and Ben Jonson 
ministered, — a court where Andrewes, Wotton, 
Donne, Coke, Bacon, held high place. All these 
he must have looked upon, and with many he 
must have exchanged formal courtesies and quaint 
compliments." 

His life divides itself most naturally into four 
unequal periods, those of Education, Hesitation, 
Crisis, and Consecration: the first carrying him up 
to his twenty-sixth year and to his application for 
the Cambridge Oratorship, about 1619; the second 
extending through the next eight years, to the death 
of his friends, his resignation of the Oratorship, and 
his plans for rebuilding Leighton Church in 1626- 
27 ; the third covering the time of illness and uncer- 
tainty till his taking orders in 1630; and the fourth, 
his three years as a priest at Bemerton. To each 



20 THE LIFE 

of these periods I devote a section of this essay, and 
add a final section on his early biographer, Walton. 



II 

GEORGE HERBERT (the name was pro- 
nounced and often written Harbert) was 
born April 3, 1593, at Montgomery in North Wales. 
There his father owned two estates, Montgomery 
Castle and Black Hall. In which of them the poet 
was born is uncertain. Since Montgomery Church 
has no record of his baptism, he may have been 
born, Uke his brother Edward, at Eyton in Shrop- 
shire, his mother's maiden home, or he may have 
been baptized at the Castle itself. Montgomery 
Castle belongs to that line of fortresses which ex- 
tends along the eastern boundary of Wales, " The 
Marches," built to hold the rebelKous Welsh in 
awe. It lies on the borders of Montgomeryshire 
and Shropshire, in an agricultural region, hilly 
rather than mountainous, the town small and 
with woodland in its vicinity; " a pleasant romancy 
place " in Anthony Wood's time, and in ours also. 
The eminence on which the castle stood was known 
as Primrose Hill, and is commemorated in Donne's 
hues entitled The Primrose. In 1644 Edward 
Herbert surrendered the Castle to the Parliament, 
who destroyed it in 1649. Little more than the 
outline of its wall is now visible. 
The Herbert family is one of the oldest, stateliest, 



THE LIFE 21 

and most extended in England. Three earldoms 
— Pembroke, Carnarvon, and Powis — still re- 
main in the family. It begins with a chamberlain 
of William the Conqueror, estabUshing itself both 
in England and in Wales. At the thirteenth gen- 
eration, in the middle of the fifteenth century, it 
divides : the elder brother, William, then made first 
Earl of Pembroke, becoming the ancestor five 
generations later of the famous brothers, WilHam 
and Phihp, successively Earls of Pembroke in 
George Herbert's time; while through his younger 
son, Richard, the Earl became the ancestor also 
in the fifth generation of George Herbert's father, 
Richard, the lord of Montgomery. These two 
parts of the family always kept in close relation 
with each other; the Enghsh as the older, richer, 
more intimately connected with the Court and with 
letters, being regarded by the Welsh branch as 
their strong ally and patron. 

The Herberts of Montgomery were more noted 
for courage than for intellect. They were a race of 
soldiers, tall, handsome, black-haired, who Hved 
roughly, quarrelled easily, were sensitive in mat- 
ters of honor, and with a strong hand dealt out 
justice over their turbulent domains. But they 
were trained as gentlemen, too. Of George Her- 
bert's father his son Edward records that "his 
learning was not vulgar, as understanding well 
the Latin tongue and being well versed in history." 
Yet the soldierly blood was in them all. George 



22 THE LIFE 

was the fifth among ten children, seven sons and 
three daughters, "Job's number and Job's dis- 
tribution." His brothers, Richard and WiUiam, 
died as officers in the Flemish wars. Thomas 
commanded a vessel in the navy. George himself 
laments that feeble health compelled him to the 
scholar's life. 

Whereas my birth and spirit rather took 
The way that takes the town; 

that is, the martial career. The eldest brother, 
Edward, created in 1629 Baron Herbert of Cher- 
bury, — from his manor, four miles from Mont- 
gomery, — was at once soldier, statesman, histo- 
rian, poet, and religious philosopher. A younger 
brother, Charles, who died while at the University, 
also wrote verses. 

Perhaps the Kterary and artistic tendencies 
which thus appear a Httle incongruously in this 
contentious stock were contributed by the mother. 
Magdalen Newport was the daughter of one of 
the largest landed proprietors of Shropshire. She 
was granddaughter of Sir Thomas Bromley, Chief 
Justice under Henry VIII and an executor of the 
King's Will. Even in that age, prolific in powerful 
women, she was notable; for she combined in 
herself beauty, piety, intellect, passion, artistic 
and Hterary tastes, business abihty, social charm. 
Walton gives a winning account of " her great and 
harmless wit, her chearful gravity and her obliging 



THE LIFE 23^ 

behaviour." An accomplished musician, she trained 
all her children in music. One of her intimates 
who deeply affected her son was Dr. Donne, the 
poet, and the eloquent Dean of St. Paul's. At a 
critical period in his affairs she assisted him and 
his large family. He wrote to her one of his Verse- 
Letters, his Unes The Autumnal, and his sonnet on 
St. Mary Magdalen. Over her he preached one of 
the greatest of his funeral sermons. "Her house 
was a Court in the conversation of the best, and 
an Almshouse in feeding the poore. God gave her 
such a comelinesse as, though she were not proud 
of it, yet she was so content with it as not to goe 
about to mend it by any Art. And for her Attire, 
it was never sumptuous, never sordid, but alwayes 
agreeable to her quaUty and agreeable to her com- 
pany." With this sermon George Herbert printed 
his Parentalia, a series of Latin poems in honor 
of her who, as he says, brought him into one world 
and shaped his course for another. The second of 
these poems gives a vivid picture of her orderly 
domestic hfe. 

Her husband, Sir Richard Herbert, dying in 
1597, when George was but four years old, the care 
of her estate and the education of her children fell 
into her highly competent hands. About a year 
later she removed to Oxford, where Edward had 
entered the University. Here George lived with 
her about four years preparing under tutors for 
more advanced classical training. The remainder 



24 THE LIFE 

of her life was spent in London and Chelsea. Her 
loveliness was of the unfading sort. It enabled her 
in 1609 to enter into a daring yet happy second 
marriage with Sir John Danvers, the younger bro- 
ther of the Earl of Danby. At this time she was, 
as Donne says in his funeral sermon on her, over 
forty years old and already the mother of ten chil- 
dren. Sir John was barely twenty, but as hand- 
some as she. " His complexion was so exceedingly 
beautiful and fine," says Aubrey, "that people 
would come after him in the street to admire. He 
had a very fine fancy, which lay chiefly for gardens 
and architecture." He proved a kind stepfather 
to George Herbert. A genial, irresponsible man 
he was, whom everybody liked so long as he was 
young, and who had no difficulty in marrying well 
three times ; but who after the death of his mas- 
terful first wife fell into debt and bewilderment. 
Though he had been one of the gentlemen attend- 
ing the King, yet " being neglected by his brother," 
says Clarendon, " and having by a vain expense 
in his way of living contracted a vast debt which 
he knew not how to pay, and being a proud formal 
weak man," he became one of the Regicides. 
When he died, in 1655, " he was to both political 
parties as great an object of scorn and detestation 
as any man in the kingdom." 

With such a double inheritance of soldierly 
force and intellectual refinement, with decided 
originality and freedom from convention on both 



THE LIFE 25 

sides, and with wealth, eminent family, and great 
traditions, George Herbert in 1605 entered West- 
minster School. Lancelot Andrewes was the Dean 
and Richard Ireland, Master. During his four 
years there his hterary bent declared itself. He 
was admired for his classical scholarship. Here 
he made his first essays in verse, in Latin, and in 
ecclesiasticism, — the three fields in which he was 
subsequently to win distinction. Though but a boy, 
he attacked Andrew Melville (1545-1622), the 
scholarly leader of the Presbyterian party, in a 
number of Latin Epigrams, which were judged 
good enough to be passed from hand to hand and 
to encourage their author to continue them after 
entering the University. In 1609 he won a scholar- 
ship at Trinity College, Cambridge, and took his 
Bachelor's degree three years later. In the year of 
his entrance he wrote the first of his Enghsh poems 
which have been preserved, two sonnets addressed 
to his mother. In them he expressed his intention 
of becoming a religious poet. In the year when he 
took his degree, 1612, Prince Henry died, the pop- 
ular heir to the Crown. The grief of the nation 
was deep, and was sung by all the poets of the day, 
— by Browne, Chapman, Donne, Drayton, Drum- 
mond, Heywood, Sylvester, Wither. With these 
men Herbert joined. His first printed pieces were 
two Latin Elegies on the Prince, contributed to a 
volume issued by the University of Cambridge. 
Two years later he became a Fellow of his College, 



26 THE LIFE 

and an instructor in rhetoric. At the same time 
he began the systematic study of divinity. To the 
scholar's Ufe and the priesthood he had been des- 
tined from early youth. His mother selected the 
priesthood for him, and his own better judgment 
approved. 

But during these years, while he was winning 
academicJc praise as a clerical scholar and man of 
letters, he shone in other things as well. The pas- 
sion for perfection was in his blood. This, joined 
with his love of beauty and his pride of birth, lent 
distinction to whatever he produced, though lim- 
iting its amount. " He was blest with a natural 
elegance both in his behaviour, his tongue, and 
his pen," says Walton. "If during this time he 
exprest any error, it was that he kept himself too 
much retir'd and at too great a distance with all 
his inferiours, and his cloaths seemed to prove that 
he put too great a value on his parts and paren- 
tage." Herbert shared heartily in the temper of a 
time which, delighting in every species of intellect- 
ual complexity, made its clothes as fantastic as its 
verses. In 1615, when the King visited Cambridge, 
the Vice-Chancellor was obUged to set bounds to 
personal display and issued the following order: 
" Considering the fearful enormitie and excess of 
apparell seen in all degrees, as namely, strange 
pekadivelas, vast bands, huge cuffs, shoe-roses, 
tufts, locks and topps of hair, unbecoming that 
modesty and carridge of students in so renowned a 



THE LIFE 27 

University, it is straightly charged that no graduate 
or student presume to wear any other apparell or 
ornaments, especially at the time of his Majestie's 
abode in the towne, than such only as the statutes 
and laudable customs of this University do allow, 
upon payne of forfeiture of 6 shilHngs and 8 pence 
for every default." That Herbert himself was not 
averse to pekadivelas and shoe-roses, either in 
these or in later days, is hinted by Oley in his 
Preface to The Country Parson: "I have not 
offerred to describe that person of his, which 
afforded so unusual a contesseration of elegancies 
and set of rarities to the beholder." 

For such genteel humour, and for tastes no 
less elegant in books, Herbert's income proved 
insufficient. The eldest son, Edward Herbert, 
had granted each of his brothers an annuity of 
£30 from their father's estate, and George had 
also the income of his Fellowship. But in 1617 
he writes two letters to his stepfather, begging for 
more money, urging the expenses of a university 
life, his great need of books, the cost of sickness 
with its special articles of diet, and proposing 
the doubling my annuity now upon condition that I 
should surcease from all title to it after I entered into 
a benefice. He promises if this is done that he will 
for ever after cease his clamorous and greedy book- 
ish requests. During these years he kept a riding 
horse and apparently also a small country house, 
at Newmarket, the racing town near Cambridge. 



THE LIFE 



III 



HITHERTO throughout this period of Edu- 
cation Herbert has been aiming, delayingly 
and through much dallying with social display and 
graceful literature, at the priesthood. Now this 
deeper aim, which gave his hf e the little steadiness 
it had hitherto possessed, becomes shaken, and he 
enters that second period of his career which I have 
ventured to call his period of Hesitation. For 
eight years dreams of political eminence sway him, 
subordinating though never altogether destroying 
his plan to become a priest. Only when these glit- 
tering hopes have failed is there a recurrence to 
the earher and more vital purpose. 

In 1619 Sir Francis Nethersole resigned the 
Oratorship of Cambridge University. Herbert 
eagerly sought to become his successor, and 
brought to bear on the appointing powers the so- 
licitations of influential friends. Sir Francis, how- 
ever, had suggested that this place being civil may 
divert me too much from Divinity, at which, not 
without cause, he thinks I aim. But I have wrote 
him back that this dignity hath no such earthiness 
in it but it may very well be joined with heaven; 
or if it had to others, yet to me it should not, for 
aught I yet knew. The attractions of the office he 
thus describes in a letter to his stepfather: 

The Orator's place is the finest place in the Uni- 
versity, though not the gainfullest ; yet that will be 



THE LIFE 29 

about sol per an. But the commodiousness is 
beyond the revenue ; for the Orator writes all the 
University letters, makes all the orations, be it to 
King, Prince, or whatever comes to the University ; 
to requite these fains, he takes place next the doc- 
tors, is at all their assemblies and meetings, and 
sits above the proctors, is regent, or non-regent at 
his pleasure, and such like gaynesses, which will 
please a young man well. 

Herbert obtained the Oratorship, and held the 
place eight years. Two of his orations and many 
of his official letters have come down to us. They 
show him to have been a skilful courtier, but do 
him little credit as a moral or intellectual man. 
Adulation was common in that day. One can only 
say that Herbert practised it with the force and 
audacity habitual in his undertakings. The year 
in which he was seeking the Oratorship he selected 
as the piece to be read with his rhetoric class an 
oration of King James, instead of one by Cicero 
or Demosthenes, and this "he analyzed, showed 
the concinnity of the parts, the propriety of the 
phrase, the height and power of it to move the 
affections, the style utterly unknown to the an- 
cients, who could not conceive what kingly elo- 
quence was ; in respect of which those noted 
demagogi were but hirelings and tribolary rhe- 
toricians." (Hacket's Life of Archbishop WiUiams, 
I, 175.) He first attracted the notice of the King 
by a letter written in 1620 in acknowledgment 



30 THE LIFE 

of the gift to the University of the King's book, 
Basilikon Doron. " This letter was writ in such 
excellent Latin," says Walton, "was so full of 
conceits and all the expressions so suted to the 
genius of the King that he inquired the Orator's 
name and then ask'd William, Earl of Pembroke, 
if he knew him? whose answer was, 'That he 
knew him very well, and that he was his kinsman; 
but he lov'd him more for his learning and vertue 
than for that he was of his name and family.' 
At which answer the King smil'd and asked the 
Earl leave ' That he might love him too ; for he 
took him to be the Jewel of that University.' " 
Thereafter, when the King went to hunt at Roy- 
ston,'"near Cambridge, Herbert was much in his 
company. "A laudible ambition to be something 
more than he then was drew him often from 
Cambridge to attend the King wheresoever the 
Court was; and he seldom look'd towards Cam- 
bridge, unless the King were there, but then he 
never fail'd ; and at other times left the manage 
of his Orator's place to his learned friend Mr. 
Herbert Thorndike," i. e. to his secretary. 

Such assiduity soon brought its rewards, the 
most honorable among them being the powerful 
friends acquired. The Duke of Lenox, the Duke 
of Richmond, the Marquis of Hamilton, became 
his patrons. In the train of the King in 1620 was 
Lord Bacon. In that year Herbert had written 
him an official letter thanking him for the gift 



THE LIFE 31 

to the University of his Instauratio Magna, and a 
subsequent letter begging him to check the Lon- 
don booksellers who, having an eye to their own 
advantage rather than to that of the 'public, are 
longing for certain monopolies; from which cir- 
cumstance we fear that the price of boohs will be 
increased and our privileges diminished. This 
was the beginning of a friendship which continued 
with increasing closeness till Bacon's death. 

In the year that Herbert became Orator, 1619, 
he printed a Latin Elegy on the death of Queen 
Anne. In 1623 Walton says the King presented 
him the lay Rectorship of Whitf ord with an income 
of £100. No duties were attached to the place. 
It was a sinecure which had formerly been held 
by Sir PhiUp Sidney. It should be said, however, 
that Herbert's name does not appear as Rector in 
the Whitford Church records. 

Herbert was now aspiring to something far 
higher than his Oratorship. Sir Francis Nether- 
sole, the preceding Orator, had become secretary 
to the Queen of Bohemia, the much loved Princess 
Ehzabeth. Sir Robert Naunton, who held the 
Oratorship before Nethersole, had become one of 
the English Secretaries of State. To become such 
a Secretary himself was Herbert's ambition from 
1620 to 1625. Nor was it improbable that he 
would reach it. From 1619 to 1624 his brother 
Edward was the EngHsh Ambassador at the 
French Court. In 1623 his brother Henry became 



32 THE LIFE 

Master of the Revels to King James. Few nobles 
were more influential than Herbert's great kins- 
man, the Earl of Pembroke. Herbert accordingly 
turned aside from divinity to master French, 
Spanish, and Italian. He even inclined to abandon 
altogether the scholar's life and go abroad. But 
the strong will of his mother would not allow this 
final abandonment of the priesthood, and Herbert 
remained in England. 

When Prince Charles and Buckingham came 
home from Spain in 1623, unsuccessful in form- 
ing a Spanish alKance, Herbert deUvered and 
published a long oration of welcome in which, 
while as adulatory as ever, he had the courage to 
protest against the war to which the party of 
Buckingham now inclined. The historian S. R. 
Gardiner believes that this courageous stand de- 
stroyed Herbert's prospects of promotion. Oley 
says that the secretaryship was once within his 
grasp. But in 1623 died the Duke of Richmond; 
in the following year, the Duke of Lenox; in 1625 
the King and the Marquis of Hamilton; and in 
1626 Lord Bacon. His mother died a year later. 
Herbert resigned the Oratorship, and his period 
of Hesitation, gaynesses, and ambition was at an 
end. 



THE LIFE 33 

IV 

FROM this point onward Herbert's life is best 
studied in connection with his poetry. That 
is not the case with its two earHer periods, those 
of Education and Hesitation. In regard to the 
many years included in these, his writings give 
little information. Groups I-V of the poems were 
probably for the most part written during the 
second of these periods. They report his early 
thoughts and ideals, but not the incidents of his 
life. When we turn to Groups VI-XI, covering 
the last two periods of Crisis and Consecration, 
the verse becomes strongly biographic. Through 
it alone can the significance of what is happening 
be followed. The events that occur, though few, 
are weighty. It is they which finally bring the man 
to adequate expression. Without constant refer- 
ence to those events the later poetry is unintelli- 
gible, nor can the events be understood without 
the poetry. Any account, accordingly, of these 
two most important periods in the life of Herbert 
must be merely preparatory to the poems and 
Prefaces of Groups VI-XI. 

Had Herbert died at the point to which we have 
now brought him, he would have left no name in 
letters, state, or church. A few Latin poems and 
orations, not quite half his English verse, — the 
portion least interesting and which ultimately 
received most alteration, — would alone show the 



34 THE LIFE 

tendencies of this fastidious scholar, courtier, and 
churchman. None of his prose was written, nor 
had he yet adopted his priestly calling. Whatever 
distinguishes him to-day had no existence then. 
Yet more than four fifths of his Ufe were gone. 
Of these ineffective years we may say, what he 
has himself said in another connection, that he 
ranne, but all he brought was fome. 

The remaining six years were Herbert's blos- 
soming time. Forces which had long been at work 
in him bUndly, slackly, and inconsistently, now 
under the pressure of auction gradually took 
control, and shaped his formless Ufe into a thing 
of beauty. That dilatoriness which seems ever a 
sad and necessary part of a poet's equipment had 
done its work. It had brought him enrichment, 
training, and perhaps at the last a quickening 
terror. 

Fain would I here have made abode. 
But I was quicJcen'd by my houre, 

he says of his Cambridge days. Herbert saw life 
sUpping away in pleasant Cambridge, and sud- 
denly wondered if there still were time to accom- 
plish his twin projects. We have seen how early he 
had resolved to be a poet and a priest. A begin- 
ning had been made at the one, and he had steadily 
evaded the other. In his last six years he was to 
become both in a notable degree. The crisis in his 
affairs was induced by the following circumstances. 



THE LIFE 35 

In 1626 Laud's opponent, Bishop Williams of 
Lincoln, appointed Herbert lay Prebendary of the 
parish of Leighton, ten miles from Huntington. 
The appointment was apparently intended, Uke 
the previous one at Whitford, to yield a stipend 
without duties; but it was accepted in a different 
spirit. The parish was small, the church itself in 
ruins. No service had been held in it for twenty 
years. Its roof had fallen, its walls were crumbling, 
its interior was decayed. It has been asserted that 
Herbert never visited the place. But the adjoin- 
ing manor had belonged to his friend the Duke 
of Lenox ; and five miles away Hved one who was 
subsequently to be closely associated with him, 
Nicholas Ferrar. Through these or other agencies, 
now unknown, Herbert became deeply interested 
in the rehabiUtation of the church. He soHcited, 
he contributed, funds. He tried to induce Ferrar to 
take his place as Prebendary. FaiUng in this, he 
persuaded him to take charge of the long labors 
of reparation. These continued till after his own 
death. In his Will he leaves £15 to Leighton 
Church. The building is a large and beautiful 
one. The additions made by Herbert and Ferrar 
in windows, roof, and furnishings have a plain 
solidity and suitableness which is very attractive. 
One of Herbert's ecclesiastical arrangements noted 
by Walton is of decided interest as indicating a 
sympathy with the Puritan estimate of sermons. 
"By his order the reading pew and pulpit were 



36 THE LIFE 

a little distant from each other and both of an 
equal height ; for he would often say, They should 
neither have a ^precedency or priority of the other; 
but that prayer and preaching, being equally use- 
ful, might agree like brethren.' * It is not easy to 
see why on a church with which he apparently 
had Httle connection, Herbert should have spent 
so much of his love, his thought, and his means. 
Perhaps the undertaking, expressing as it did in- 
creased interest in rehgious matters, quieted his 
conscience for the long evasion of sacred work. 

The year after Leighton Church was begun, 
Herbert resigned his Oratorship and withdrew from 
the University. This grave step immediately fol- 
lowed the death of his mother. In memory of 
her he pubUshed a series of Latin verses full of 
careful appreciation and respect, though not re- 
markable for either affection or piety. The only 
human being who ever perceptibly swayed his 
Ufe was removed; but her remembered influence 
proved quite as compulsive as her imperious pre- 
sence. It was she who originally chose the priest- 
hood for him; she who maintained his purpose 
during periods of slackness; she who hindered his 
going abroad and finally abandoning that caUing. 
Now she was dead, her purpose unfulfilled. His 
own courtly hopes were ended, his health was seri- 
ously impaired. He was engaged, too, with her ap- 
proval, in a work of church building which brought 
him into contact with Ferrar, a man of extreme 



THE LIFE 37 

religious originality. Many influences without him 
and within cooperated, and at the end of three 
years produced their ripening effect. These bitter 
years of solitude, self-examination, search after 
health, and reinstatement of early resolve are de- 
picted in the sixth Group of his poems. They 
were years spent in retirement. Sometimes he was 
at his mother's home in Chelsea, where he would 
meet Dr. Donne, who had hesitated almost as long 
as himself about taking orders; sometimes at 
Woodford in Essex, h|s courtly brother Henry's 
country place ; sometimes at Dauntsey in Wilt- 
shire, the estate of the Earl of Danby. At the 
neighboring town of Baynton, in 1629, when health 
and spirits were somewhat restored and he was 
just entering his thirty-sixth year, he suddenly mar- 
ried Jane Danvers, a relative of the Earl of Danby, 
a woman of beauty and independent means. She 
brought him no children, but the marriage was a 
happy one. After Herbert's death she married Sir 
Robert Cook of Highnam Court, Gloucestershire. 
How long she remained a widow is uncertain. 
Walton thought it "five years," or in another edi- 
tion, " about six." But as Sir Robert Cook himself 
died only ten years after Herbert, and she had 
borne him three sons and a daughter, her period 
of widowhood must have been brief. She died in 
1663. 



THE LIFE 



ALMOST as suddenly as he had married, 
Herbert in the following year accepted the 
living of Fuggleston-cum-Bemerton and began his 
brief period of Consecration. The greatness of 
the change is well stated by Charles Cotton, who 
in 1672, commending Walton for the volume of his 
Lives which had recently appeared, describes Her- 
bert as 

" He whose education. 
Manners and parts, by high applauses blown, 
Was deeply tainted by Ambition, 

" And fitted for a court, made that his aim; 
At last, without regard to birth or name, 
For a poor country cure does all disclaim; 

" Where, with a soul composed of harmonies. 
Like a sweet swan, he warbles as he dies 
His Maker's praise and his own obsequies." 

In excuse for Herbert's long hesitation and secular 
ambition, it should be borne in mind that in his 
day, as Cotton hints, the priesthood was not re- 
garded as altogether suitable for a gentleman of 
birth. In The Country Parson, Ch. XXVIII, 
Herbert speaks of the generall ignominy which is 
cast upon the profession. Donne, in his Lines to 
Mr. Tilman After He Had Taken Orders, con- 
gratulates him on putting aside " the lay-scornings 



THE LIFE 39 

of the ministiy." Walton quotes Herbert's remark 
that the iniquity of the late times have made clergy- 
men meanly valued and the sacred name of 'priest 
contemptible. And Oley says in his Preface to The 
Country Parson; "I have heard sober men cen- 
sure him as a man that did not manage his brave 
parts to his best advantage and preferment, but 
lost himself in an humble way. That was the 
phrase. I well remember it." 

Herbert was instituted to the Rectorship by 
John Davenant, Bishop of Salisbury, a leader of 
the Puritan party, on April 26, 1630, five months 
before he was ordained priest. Even then he was 
not able at once to reside in his parish. The Rec- 
tory was so out of repair that it had not been oc- 
cupied by his predecessor. Dr. Curie, who had a 
house fifteen miles away. With this arrangement 
Herbert was not content. He would Uve among 
his people. He reconstructed the Rectory at a cost 
of £200. Aubrey says : " The old house was very 
ruinous. Here he built a very handsome house 
for the minister of brick and made a good garden 
and walks ; " and Walton, that " he hasted to get 
the Parish Church repaired, then to beautifie the 
Chappel (which stands near his house) and that at 
his own great charge." 

Less than three miles from Salisbury, in its 
extensive Park, stands Wilton House, one of the 
stateliest mansions in England. It was built on 
the foundations of an ancient Abbey, from the 



40 THE LIFE 

designs of Hans Holbein. Its owner, William Her- 
bert, the great Earl of Pembroke, died a fortnight 
before Herbert was instituted, and was succeeded 
in the Earldom by his brother Philip. This house 
of his kinsman must have been a frequent visiting 
place for Herbert during the few years of his priest- 
hood. At its gate stood the considerable church 
of Fuggleston or Fulston St. Peter. Around the 
church in Herbert's day there was probably some- 
thing of a hamlet. Here lived and ministered Her- 
bert's Curate, Nathaniel Bostock. But the parish 
embraced also the villages of Quidhampton and 
Bemerton, the three together having a population 
of not more than three hundred souls. At Bemerton 
was, the small chapel of St. Andrew, forty-six feet 
long by eighteen wide, seating rather more than 
fifty people. With this chapel Herbert's ministry 
is particularly identified. Aubrey writes : " George 
Herbert was chaplaine to Philip Earl of Pembroke 
and Montgomery. His lordship gave him a bene- 
fice at Bemmarton, a pittifuU little chappell of ease 
to Foughelston." The chapel is almost a part of 
the Rectory, which stands opposite it and only 
forty feet away. On this chapel he looked from 
his study window; in it he read prayers every day; 
during the time of his feeble health he must have 
preached oftener here than at Fulston; and here, 
in the floor beside the altar, he was buried. Though 
many changes have been made in the little build- 
ing since he died, they are not such as disturb its 



THE LIFE 41 

main features. Herbert would recognize it to-day. 
What his income at Bemerton was, I am unable 
to ascertain. I find it stated that one of his suc- 
cessors in 1692, John Norris, the Platonist and 
poet, received ^70. But Herbert was not depend- 
ent on the income of his parish. 

The Rectory across the road has doubled its 
size since Herbert Hved there, and most of its 
rooms are changed. His study remains and his 
large garden, which slopes pleasantly down to the 
small river Wiley. An old medlar-tree is connected 
by tradition with his planting. Across a mile of 
intervening meadows rises the spire of SaHsbury 
Cathedral. At the Rectory the household consisted 
of himself, his wife, three nieces, daughters of his 
sister Margaret Vaughan, — one of whom, dying 
a year before himself, left him .£500, — and, as 
appears in his Will, two men-servants and four 
maids. In this house were spent the three years 
which give significance to Herbert's fife. 

Cut off as he now largely was from the com- 
panionship to which he had been accustomed, and 
with little opportunity for other forms of outward 
action, his energies turned within. Things of the 
mind claimed him with an absorption to which 
hitherto he had been a stranger. With unwonted 
persistence he now pursued three lines of ideal 
construction, — music, writing, and the services of 
the church, — and in them obtained a needed relief 
from isolation, loneliness, and disappointed hopes. 



42 THE LIFE 

The neighboring SaKsbury afforded two varieties 
of music. A private club of musicians drew him 
each week into its friendly and melodious com- 
pany ; and Kstening to the mighty harmonies at 
the Cathedral, he could 

Without a bodie move 

Rising and falling with their wings. 

Then at Bemerton his lute was always ready to 
aid his voice in giving fuller expression to his own 
songs. In short, music seems to have been his one 
diversion. 

How elaborately he undertook to extract from 
the ritual of his church every power and beauti- 
ful significance, Walton has explained, Herbert's 
own Country Parson shows, and in the Preface 
to Group VII I have discussed. No man ever 
entered more profoundly into the priesthood. 
These brief years were indeed a Consecration. 
Herbert endeavored to empty himself, to dis- 
charge his former desires, and to become a color- 
less medium through which the divine reason, 
austerity, and radiance might healingly shine. 
The conception of the preacher which with his 
usual ardor, elaboration, tenderness, and frequent 
rebellion too, he sought during these bleak years 
to attain he has announced in his poem of The 
Windows: 

Lordy how can man preach thy eternall word ? 
He is a brittle crazie glasse. 



THE LIFE 4S 

Yet in thy temple thou dost him ajford 
This glorious and transcendent place 
To be a window ^ through thy grace. 

But when thou dost anneal in glasse thy storie. 

Making thy life to shine within 
The holy Preachers ^ then the light and glorie 

More reverend grows, and more doth win. 

The full record of this faiUng and triumphant 
time will be found in the poems and Prefaces of 
Groups VII-XI. 

But if Herbert now pressed eagerly forward to 
attain in a time which he knew must be brief that 
priestly ideal which he had cherished throughout 
his dilatory life, no less eager was he to complete 
the literary ambitions of his youth. Toward these 
aims much was already accomplished. Bacon, 
Donne, Ferrar, his intimates, knew before he came 
to Bemerton that he was a skilful poet of the spe- 
cial type which he had early resolved to become. 
But the amount of his verse hitherto produced was 
small, only occasionally was it vitalized with per- 
sonal experience, and none of it was as yet pub- 
lished. He had much more to say. His art was 
never so subtle or harmonious as now. The deeper 
religious life he was leading illuminated his old 
topic and revealed its finer shades. Yet he felt 
clear premonitions of his approaching end. 

The harbingers are come. See, see their m^rk I 
White is their colour, and behold my head. 



44 THE LIFE 

But must they have my brain f Must they disparJc 
Those sparkling notions which therein were bred ? 
Must dulnesse turn me to a clod ? 
Yet have they left me, " Thou art still my God.** 

Under such pressure, he who was not naturally 
productive, but by temperament meagre, critical, 
and postponing, forced from his fading powers an 
amount of dehcate Hterature which would have 
been creditable to the most robust of writers. Not 
only do something hke half of his poems come from 
these three years, but during them his Country 
Parson also was written. Possibly to this time is 
due his exquisite translation of Cornaro On Tem- 
perance. Only ^\Q months before his death he 
read and elaborately annotated Ferrar's transla- 
tion of The Divine Considerations of Valdesso. 
How much more he wrote we do not know. Wal- 
ton says of Herbert's widow : "This Lady Cook 
had preserv*d many of Mr. Herbert's private writ- 
ings which she intended to make pubHck ; but they 
and Highnam House were burnt together by the 
late Rebels, and so lost to posterity." To this should 
be added Aubrey's remark: "He alsowritt a folio 
in Latin which, because the parson of Highnam 
could not read, his widowe (then wife to Sir Robert 
Cooke) condemned to the uses of good houswifry. 
This account I had from Mr. Arnold Cooke, one 
of Sir Robert Cooke's sons, whom I desired to 
ask his mother-in-law for Mr. G. Herbert's MSS." 



THE LIFE 45 

When one adds to his manifold literary under- 
takings the care of his scattered parish and the 
beginnings of family hfe, it is evident that these 
were busy years. Were they too busy? Might 
not those rheumes and agues to which his frame, 
feeble from childhood, had always been disposed, 
have been checked in their onward movement 
toward consumption by a less rigorous Hfe? It 
cannot be known ; and in view of what that rigor 
accomphshed, there is httle room for regret. The 
exact date of his death is not known, but he was 
buried on March 3, 1633. 



VI 

THE Herbert whose contrasted periods of hfe are 
here exhibited, and who is studied in minuter 
detail hereafter, will be found to differ considerably 
from him who appears in Walton's Life. My ac- 
count may consequently be received with distrust. 
Walton's book is one of the glories of our hterature. 
It is true he had no acquaintance with Herbert. He 
saw him only once, at Lady Herbert's funeral. But 
he had documents which have now perished. Out 
of them and out of his own attractive personaUty 
he has woven a Life of Herbert which few pieces 
of biography exceed in unity, vividness, and con- 
vincing power. The ease of Walton's account and 
its apparent waywardness add to its charm and 
the impression of its veracity. In spite of some 



46 THE LIFE 

petty inaccuracies, especially in dates, I believe 
that what Walton says is substantially true. But 
there is much which he does not say; and in gen- 
eral, his book should be judged rather as a piece 
of art than as even-handed history. In painting a 
glowing picture an artist selects a point of view, 
and to what is visible from that point subordinates 
all else. So Walton works. He paints us the Saint 
of Bemerton. And while too honest to conceal dis- 
cordant facts from him who will search his pages, 
he contrives to throw so strong a Hght on Herbert's 
three consecrated years that few readers notice 
how unHke these are to his vacillating thirty-six. 
Walton's fascinating portraiture has taken so firm 
a hold on the popular imagination that it may 
truly be said to constitute at present the most seri- 
ous obstacle to a cool assessment of Herbert. To 
refer to the more secular and Uterary sides of that 
complex character seems a kind of sacrilege. Yet 
Walton himself furnishes material for his own 
correction. To this I have directed attention, sup- 
plementing it with the statements of Oley, Lord 
Herbert, Aubrey, and other contemporaries, and 
making large use also of Herbert's own estimates 
of himseK contained in his poems and prose writ- 
ings. By turning to these original sources I hope 
my readers will be able to perceive the romantic 
coloring of Walton, to allow for it, and to enjoy 
that skilful portraiture the more. 




^ IJrophct ^ ApoftieV^^ W 
^Ma/iu Porch and Temple vcfiti^ 
'^^ Bazty ^fTHmm. PhilcaTophy. 

Haw Orient rum i^Tt^l/mpr^cri'd furc ' 



liiiiniiiiiiH 



II 

TRAITS OF THE MAN 



TRAITS OF THE MAN 

WITH these events in the Hfe of Herbert 
before us, let us examine those features 
of his complex character which if misconceived 
prevent an understanding of his writings. A char- 
acter is interesting about in proportion to the op- 
posing traits which it harmonizes. And nowhere 
are such interesting characters so common as 
among the men who met the conflicting forces of 
the later Renaissance. Every part of their being 
responds to a multitude of calls, and yet they im- 
press us as highly individual men. I shall trace 
the rich and harmonious diversity of Herbert in 
his physical structure, his temperamental habits, 
his intellect, and his religious nature. 



WE do not certainly know how Herbert 
looked. No contemporary portrait of him 
exists. If one was ever painted, it has perished. An 
allusion to a portrait has been sought in a Hne of 
The Posie, where, speaking of his intended motto, 
he says, This by my picturCy in my book^ I write. 
But a gracefully turned phrase is no evidence of 
historic fact. An early engraving, however, has 
come down to us, preserved in a triple form. In 



50 THE MAN 

Walton's Lives (1670) there was printed a portrait 
of Herbert, signed R. White. In the tenth edition 
of Herbert's poems (1674), the first to include 
Walton's Life, this picture appeared again, changed 
slightly, but bearing the same signature. In the 
thirteenth edition (1709) is a coarse reengraving of 
White's plate by John Sturt (1658-1730), White's 
pupil. All later portraits of Herbert are fanciful 
modifications of these early prints. Hitherto these 
have been our only means for arriving at a know- 
ledge of his face. What assurance of authenticity 
do they possess ? 

Walton and the men of his day knew Herbert's 
appearance and would certainly demand a picture 
of some verisimilitude. We must suppose that the 
likeness of Herbert here presented rests on some 
accredited original. The engraver, Robert White, 
says the Dictionary of National Biography, "was 
the most esteemed and industrious portrait en- 
graver of his age. His plates number about four 
hundred. He was celebrated for his original por- 
traits, which he drew in pencil on vellum with 
great delicacy and finish." An original portrait of 
Herbert this cannot be ; for White was not bom 
until 1645, twelve years after Herbert died. But 
it may still be an accurate likeness, for White 
engraved from paintings also. 

I beUeve, however, we can now carry the tra- 
ditional engraving a step nearer to its original. In 
1902 I learned that there was an early drawing of 



THE MAN 51 

Herbert in private hands in Salisbury, and I pro- 
cured an introduction to its owner, George Young. 
Most generously he allowed me to examine his 
picture and even to photograph it for this book. 
It has not been published before. It is drawn in 
pencil on vellum with a delicacy of line impossi- 
ble to reproduce. The size is substantially as it 
appears in the frontispiece of this volume. For 
many generations the picture has been in Mr. 
Young's family, a family descended in a collateral 
line from Izaak Walton. Of its origin and his- 
tory nothing is known. In the clear space by 
Herbert's left shoulder stands the inscription " R. 
White delin," in White's handwriting. Is this, 
then, the original drawing made by White from 
some painting, the drawing from which the two 
pictures for Walton were afterwards engraved? 
Whoever compares it with those engravings will 
have little doubt of it. The position, the clothing, 
and the features are identical. There is the same 
curl of the collar, the same indentation of cap 
and gown. I notice only three small points of 
difference: in the drawing a few straggling hairs 
appear at the top of the forehead below the cap, 
the line of the collar is slightly open below the 
chin, and the body of the gown where the right 
sleeve joins it is visible all the way down. But 
these are just such changes as might naturally oc- 
cur in the coarser work of engraving. The fun- 
damental difference, and that which stamps the 



52 THE MAN 

drawing as prior in date, is its superior subtlety in 
the interpretation of character. Indeed, I know 
no written criticism of Herbert which exhibits 
him with such fulness, complexity, and likelihood. 
Here is high breeding, scholarship, devoutness, dis- 
appointment, humor, fastidiousness, pathos, pride. 
This priest has moved in courtly circles and con- 
vinces us that he was once alive; the engravings, 
while reporting the same general features, have 
little play of life. They present a meagre ascetic. 
In the process of engraving, whether conducted by 
White or by some journeyman, the vitality of the 
drawing has disappeared. The lines have stiff- 
ened. Perhaps a nature so subtle as Herbert's lends 
itself more readily to the pencil than to the burin. 
Yet I think no one can fail to see that the three 
pictures have a single source. 

What that source was we can only surmise. The 
style of portraiture is strikingly like that of Van 
Dyck, Uke him in both his strength and his hmita- 
tions. Van Dyck was in England in 1621, probably 
in 1629, and certainly early in 1632, in the latter 
year being knighted by King Charles. He painted 
many portraits both at the Court and at Wilton 
House. Wilton House is to-day full of the Pem- 
hrokes who associated with Herbert, fixed in per- 
petual and elusive charm by the witchery of Van 
Dyck. Herbert himself, as a kinsman of the house, 
already a man of note, and living but a mile away, 
might naturally enough have been painted too. 



THE MAN 53 

A memorandum of Aubrey's, contained in his 
Lives, shows that a portrait of him was then be- 
lieved to exist : " George Herbert — (ask) cozen 
Nan Garnet pro (his) picture ; if not, her aunt 
Cooke." Whether the painter was Van Dyck or 
some other lover of human refinements, in this 
frontispiece we have for the first time a singularly 
vivid and subtle representation of Herbert drawn 
by one selected for the task by Walton himself. 

White's portrait accords well with verbal de- 
scriptions of Herbert. The consumptive face is 
long and gaunt, with prominent cheek-bones. Abun- 
dant curly hair falls to the shoulders. A high brow 
strongly overarches widely parted eyes. The nose 
is large and with a Roman curve, the mouth 
markedly sensitive. In some verses printed in The 
Temple of 1674, the first edition containing a por- 
trait of Herbert, the unknown author writes : 

Examine well the Lines of his dead Face, 
Therein you may discern Wisdom and Grace. 

That is the combination noticeable in the draw- 
ing. Walton says of him that " he was for his per- 
son of a stature inchning towards tallness ; his 
body was very strait, and so far from being cum- 
bred with too much flesh that he was lean to an 
extremity. His aspect was chearful, and his speech 
and motion did both declare him a Gentleman." 
In his poem The Size, Herbert has this portrait- 
like stanza : 



54 THE MAN 

A Christianas state and case 
Is not a covpulenty hut a thinne and spare 

Yet active strength; whose long and bonie face 

Content and care 
Do seem.to equally divide. 

Oley notices the elegance of his person, and Aubrey 
says that "he was a very fine complexion and 
consumptive." That he was consumptive, inchn- 
ing, too, from childhood to indigestion, colds, and 
fevers, both he himself and Walton repeatedly 
declare. But his face, Uke his writings, reveals an 
intellect somewhat excessive for the body that 
bears it. This prominence in Herbert of the nobler 
traits gave to his total appearance an exaltation 
above the ordinary. Mr. Duncon told Walton that 
" at his first view of Mr. Herbert he saw majesty 
and humiUty so reconciled in his looks and be- 
haviour as begot in him an awful reverence for his 
person." 



n 

WITH his fragility, too, and insufficiency of 
bodily stock was associated great refine- 
ment of the senses. In Herbert's constitution there 
was nothing dull, stolid, or inclining to asceticism. 
Sight, hearing, taste, smell, have all left in his verse 
their record of swift response. Out of an odor 
Herbert has constructed one of his daintiest poems. 



THE MAN 55 

His Banquet is perfumed throughout. In ten other 
poems fragrances are mentioned. It indicates his 
revival from illness that he can once more smell 
the dew and rain. With him the word sweet is 
more apt to indicate sweetness of smell than of 
taste. Twice he gives details about the pomander, 
an EHzabethan substitute for our scent-bottle. 
Dust he finds peculiarly offensive. One of his 
descriptions of the bad man is that he is guiltie of 
dust and sinne. This sensitiveness of smell appears 
equally in The Country Parson, where we are 
repeatedly warned to kee^p all sweet and clean. The 
Parson's house is to be very plaiuy but clean^ whole, 
and sweet — as sweet as his garden can make; and 
his clothes are to be without spots or dust or smell. 
He is to call at the poorest cottage, though it smell 
never so lothsomly. And this insistence on smell 
as the final token of nicety is idealized in a maxim 
of The Church-Porch : 

Let thy minde's sweetnesse have his operation 
Upon thy body, clothes, and habitation. 

Clothes were always matters of importance to 
Herbert. Their proprieties are discussed at some 
length in The Church-Porch, and Herbert's gen- 
teel humour for them is repeatedly referred to by 
Walton and Oley. 

Herbert, too, was far from dull of taste. Vivid 
allusions to food and drink abound. He knows the 
temptations of both, but dreads more those of food. 



56 THE MAN 

He knows how to stay at the third glasse; but with 
his delicate digestion and strong appetite, the quan- 
tity to be eaten is harder to regulate. He studies 
diet; he translates Cornaro On Temperance; he 
has numberless precepts of restraint, none of which 
would be necessary if he were not constitutionally 
inchned to excess. The tightness of the rein shows 
the mettle of the horse. 

How alert is his eye, even the casual reader per- 
ceives. His many pictures of natural objects have 
each their individual character, and he records 
facts with a startHng sharpness. Birds si'p and 
straight lift wp their head. Frost-nipt sunnes look 
sadly. Flowers depart to see their mother-root when 
they have blown. In terram violae capite inclinantur 
opaco. Somebody comes puffing by in silks that 
whistle. Of painted windows we hear how colours 
and light, in one when they combine and mingle, 
bring a strong regard and awe. And of leaves, The 
wind blew them underfoot, where rude unhallowed 
steps do crush and grinde their beauteous glories. 
Or again. 

We are the trees whom shaking fastens more. 
While blustring windes destroy the wanton bowres, 
And ruffle all their curious knots and store. 

Herbert has none of Vaughan's mystic brooding 
over nature. Physical and mental facts are seldom 
blended. But while chiefly occupied with inner 
states, he casts keen glances over the world with- 



THE MAN 57 

out, delights in its beauty, and by some unusual 
word marks an observation as his own. 

The training of Herbert's ear is more generally 
known than that of his other senses. He sang, 
played on the viol or lute, and was fond of the 
organ. Music was at that time a regular part of 
the education of a gentleman. Milton was trained 
in it. Poetry was still thought of as song. Herbert's 
lines were intended to be accompanied by an in- 
strument. Though in consumption, he sang them 
until a few days before he died. Throughout his 
life — as Oley, Walton, and his own poems testify 
— music was his passion. He counts it his chief 
means of escaping bodily pain. 

Sweetest of sweets^ I thank you I When displeasure 
Did through my bodie wound my minde^ 

You took me thence, and in your house of pleasure 
A daintie lodging me assigned. 

This sketch of Herbert's exquisite physical 
organization, a necessary equipment for poetic 
work, will have disclosed that his senses were 
more fine than full, that it is rather the intellectual 
than the sensuous aspect of objects which appeals 
to him. Each of our senses reports to us in double 
terms. We both see and observe; we hear and 
listen ; we smell or taste and perceive. Some minds 
fasten on one of these sides of experience, some on 
the other. Different mental types arise accordingly. 
To Herbert the immediate moment is never the 



58 THE MAN 

rapturous affair it is to Giles Fletcher or William 
Browne. While feeling it, he is looking beyond, 
correlating it, studying its significance, and judg- 
ing how far it will serve the purposes of a life. The 
pure senses are consequently subordinate powers 
in Herbert's world, and never receive that hon- 
orable training nor are trusted with that large 
control which is theirs in the poetry of Chaucer, 
Sidney, and Spenser. 



Ill 

THE only temptations which he mentions with 
anything like terror are those of idleness and 
women. Lust, a common word with him both in 
prose and verse, does not mean what it often does 
in writings of his time, a general desire for plea- 
sure. It means the specific incHnation toward 
women. This in his eyes is always evil. He mar- 
ried late, after a Hfe spent partly in the cloister 
and partly among the gay and loose. His brother 
Edward made a mercantile marriage, and was 
boastfully unfaithful to it. He himself never con- 
ceived love in our fashion as a mysterious power 
uniting the two worlds of sense and spirit. These 
remained in his thought steadily hostile. Flesh, 
though exalted, keeps his grass, and cannot turn 
to soule. To him woman is always a temptation 
and disturbance ; and this opinion is as deeply 
embedded in The Country Parson, written after 



THE MAN 59 

his marriage, as in his verse. His discussion of 
marriage in Chapter IX, on The Parson's State of 
Life, is essentially monastic. Marriage is for man 
a mere escape from worse ills, though it may be the 
good instrument of God to bring women to heaven. 
No honorable mention of a woman occurs in his 
writings, if we except the somewhat artificial la- 
ments for his mother in the Latin Parentalia, and 
Walton's statement that when he was dying he 
said : These eyes shall see my master and Saviour 
Jesus, and with him see my dear mother. Even 
the Virgin Mary he thinks of as but an instrument 
in effecting the birth of Christ, not as possessing 
distinctive virtues of her own (Anagram, and To 
All Angels and Saints, 1. 11). Allusions in the 
third stanza of The Pilgrimage and elsewhere 
make it probable that once at Cambridge Herbert 
found the wilde of passion to be a wasted place, hut 
sometimes rich. This experience forms the sub- 
ject of one of his two poems on Vanitie, and it re- 
mained with him long as a terrifying remembrance. 
In one of his last and most anguished poems he 
cries as if pursued. What is this womanhinde which 
I can wink into a hlacknesse and distaste ? 

Such inabiUty to comprehend the worth and 
place of woman is the more remarkable when we 
recall the great influence which his mother ex- 
ercised over his hfe. A marvellous woman she must 
have been, combining in herself many excellences 
of both man and woman. Donne speaks of her as 



60 THE MAN 

having " that perplexing eye which equally claims 
love and reverence." From her Herbert obtained 
much of his refinement, much, too, of his stimulus 
to action. In return he gave her abundant respect 
and obedience, but not apparently intimate affec- 
tion. Severa farens, he calls her. Tu radix, tu 
fetra mihi firmissima mater. Through her he never 
learned to honor womankind. 



TO estimate justly his second temptation, that 
of sloth, is more difficult; for vigor was in 
his stock on both sides. His fighting fathers repro- 
duced themselves in his contentious brothers; and 
he himself, though checked by lassitudes, intro- 
spection, and physical frailty, certainly possessed 
a virile temper. This has left its mark in such 
poems as Employment, Businesse, and Con- 
STANCiE. Though living in an age by no means 
listless, he warns his countrymen that their great- 
est danger is sloth, and bids his reader 

When thou dost purpose ought, {within thy power ^ 
Be sure to doe it, though it be but small. 

That he is able to go through a large amount of 
work in a brief time, and under adverse circum- 
stances, is evident from what he accompHshed in 
Hterature and parish labor during his three years 
at Bemerton. 



THE MAN 61 

But continually in Herbert double tendencies 
appear. He believed himself disposed to indolence, 
— A slack and sleepie state of minde did oft pos- 
sesse me. Of no danger does he more frequently 
warn himself than of this. Was it real ? I think so. 
It is true such reproaches sometimes spring from 
the exactions of a high standard, and may thus 
reveal a character the opposite of that vt^hich they 
assert. Being normally energetic, though subject 
to frequent weakness, Herbert may have felt with 
peculiar shame those low states where it is impos- 
sible to know how much of our slackness is attrib- 
utable to an unresponsive body and how much to 
a feeble will. But when we recall how little able he 
showed himself, before he went to Bemerton, to fix 
on a task and adhere to it, how easily he accepted a 
Ufe of elegant dependence, I believe we shall see that 
inaction was in some strange way a genuine, and 
not a mere poetic, temptation of this forcible man. 

Lord Herbert in praising his brother George 
says : " He was not exempt from passion and choler, 
being infirmities to which all our race is subject; 
but that excepted, without reproach in his actions." 
The hastiness of temper in social relations here as- 
serted beset Herbert also in the formation of plans. 
Speaking in Affliction of the early proposition 
that he should become a priest, he says : 

Mij sudden soid caught at the place ^ 
And made her youth and fiercenesse seek thy face. 



62 THE MAN 

His soul was sudden, his first feeling about a plan 
hot and fierce. He repeats the adjective in The 
Answer : my -fierce youth. Walton's story of his 
marriage confirms the trait. He married Jane 
Danvers three days after he first saw her. I do not 
give the tale full credit. The lady was the daughter 
of his stepfather's cousin, her family — even ac- 
cording to Walton's account — being well known 
to him. She lived at Baynton, but a few miles from 
Dauntsey, where he frequently visited. Yet Wal- 
ton's story must be substantially true, published, as 
it was, uncontradicted among those who knew the 
facts. Herbert certainly married but a few days 
after his engagement, and the headlong act was 
characteristic of him. He entered the priesthood 
in much the same way, years of hesitation ending 
with a sudden burst of decision. Thus it was 
throughout his life : precipitancy and irresolution, 
energy and delay, went ever hand in hand, each 
suspicious of its dangerous mate. He hesitated to 
act because he knew how prone he was to rashness ; 
but he finally acted rashly in order to escape his 
besetting sin of delay. A vivid picture of this dou- 
ble temperament he has given in The Answer, 
where he acknowledges to those 

Who think me eager ^ hot, and undertaking. 
But in my prosecutions slack and smally 

that he is like an exhalation steaming swiftly up 
from some damp ground, as if hastening to the sky; 



THE MAN 63 

but cooling by the way, it soon dissipates itself in 
drops which weep over its lack of accomplishment. 
So Herbert was frequently called to mourn the 
slackness of his prosecution. Yet I think he does 
himself injustice in counting this slackness due to 
indolence. There is no idle fibre in his mind. It is 
ever in warres, delighting in diflficulties, and moves 
with an instinctive aversion to the easy course. 
This, in fact, is its perpetual danger. Thousands 
of notions in his brain do run; and he cannot, Hke 
the rude practical person, promptly discover and 
discharge the unimportant ones. Time and energy 
are accordingly wasted. Years sHp by, and this 
abnormally forcible man stands irresolute, bewil- 
dered by irreconcilable claims. 

This strenuosity of temperament, dissipation of 
energy, and comparative ineffectiveness of result 
appear strikingly in the two main events of Her- 
bert's life, as narrated in my first Essay. Early he 
proposed to become a priest and a poet. He held 
to both purposes for more than twenty years. He 
attained both, reaching such distinction in each 
as to become a pattern to after ages. Yet in each 
he conveys the impression of exceptional powers 
only half used. One hundred and sixty-nine short 
poems and less than three years in a small country 
parish represent his accomplishment. Ceaselessly 
working over his little roll of poems, he never 
brought them to perfection ; and though he hved 
in one of the most formative periods of EngHsh 



64 THE MAN 

history, when new thoughts about church, state, 
and society were pouring in Hke a flood, the ferment 
left no trace in his writings, which might have been 
composed about equally well on a desert island. 
For the most part, he is concerned with the small 
needs of his own soul. 

Rightly does Walton characterize him as "a 
lover of retiredness," for he was essentially unso- 
cial. Acquainted though he was with many men 
and many minds, " His soul was like a star, and 
dwelt apart." It did not accept the interests of 
other men nor invite others to its own. Something 
of this was no doubt due to his sense of high birth 
and his consequent detachment from the crowd. 
He is always an aristocrat, free from vanity and 
not indisposed to oblige, but he does not turn 
toward the affairs of others. As I shall show in my 
next Essay, there were tendencies in his age inclin- 
ing men to political abstention. The holy and 
scholarly of those days were prone to withdraw 
from the world for study and reUgion, and took 
the ties Hghtly which bound them to their fellows. 
The field of human interest was becoming more 
and more an internal one, the individual soul and 
its analysis calUng for much attention from its 
anxious possessor. Herbert felt and helped to 
form this tendency. He alHed himself with no 
cause, if we except his youthful attacks on Mel- 
ville. He took few public responsibilities. To 
individuals he was strongly drawn, and he seems 



THE MAN 65 

to have formed warm friendships with able men. 
One gets the impression that he was incapable of 
anything selfish or petty, and that everything about 
him was instinctively noble. All felt him to be rare 
and exalted, and gave him instantly the reverence 
for which his nature called. But pride was in him, 
fastidiousness, and a dignity which httle disposed 
him to accept the ways of others. 



MIDWAY between Herbert's temperamental 
disposition and his intellectual acquire- 
ments he his incisive humor and his anxious op- 
timism. So detached and serious a nature is apt 
to lack humor. Milton lacked it ; so did Words- 
worth. Herbert is not without it, though his sub- 
ject hmits its amount and its kind. He at least 
knows what mirth and musick mean. He per- 
ceives how large a part merriment plays in human 
affairs, devotes to it considerable sections of The 
Church-Porch and The Country Parson, and 
sagaciously warns us that a pleasantness of dis- 
position is of great use, men being willing to sell 
the interest and ingagement of their discourses for no 
price sooner then that of mirth ; whither the nature 
of maUy loving refreshment^ gladly betakes it selfe. 
The Country Parson is accordingly advised to 
interpose in his conversation some short and hon- 
est refreshments which may make his other dis- 



66 THE MAN 

courses more welcome and lesse tedious. Herbert 
holds that 

All things are higge with jest. Nothing that's plain 
But may be wittie if thou hast the vein. 

Pretty evenly distributed throughout his book runs 
his own pecuhar form of humor, a form largely 
shaped by his love of epigram. There is in it an 
acid enjoyment of intellectual neatness, shrewd 
observation, an incHnation to approach a subject 
from an unexpected quarter, and a playfulness 
too grave for outright laughter. Yet The Quip 
and The Quidditie almost dance. Peace and 
The Bag are gay. In single Hues elsewhere he 
smiles at the man of pleasure, a Jcinde of thing 
that's for itself too dear; at him whose clothes are 
fast, hut his soul loose about him; declares that 
kneeling ne're spoiVd silk stocking; is amused 
at the astronomer who peers about the heavens 
and surveys as if he had designed to make a pur- 
chase there; calls skeletons the shells of fledge souls 
left behinde; tells how at Doomsday this mem- 
ber jogs the other, each one whispring, ^'Live you 
brother?" and how in barren Uves we freeze 
on until the grave increase our cold. Turns Kke 
these abound in Herbert. They connect them- 
selves with his fondness for embroidered verse ; 
and while far from full-blooded humor, they re- 
semble it in intellectual pungency, freedom from 
conventionaKty, and grim sport. They indicate a 



THE MAN 67 

temperament which, if never exactly merry, could 
never have been morose, rigid, or over-reverential 
to fixed mental habits. In pure sarcasm Herbert 
indulges himself only in The Church Mili- 
tant. 

In asking whether Herbert is an optimist or a 
pessimist, we must remember that all religious 
writers incHne to a sort of disparagement of hu- 
man affairs. Certainly one who without this in 
mind should read Dotage, Giddinesse, Home, 
MisERiE, Mortification, The Rose, The Size, 
and the five poems on Affliction, might well 
suppose their author a thorough pessimist. He 
would be confirmed in this beUef by hearing else- 
where that man is out of order hurVd, that the 
condition of this world is frail, that here of all 
plants afflictions soonest grow, that thy Saviour 
sentenced joy, at least in lump, that terram et funus 
olent flores, and that — as Herbert says in his 
Prayer Before Sermon — we are darknesse and 
weaJcnesse and filthinesse and shame. Miserie and 
sinne fill our days. Such expressions are familiar 
to every reader of Herbert, and they seem to assert 
that this world is rootedly evil, controlled rather 
by the Devil than by God. But in reality that is 
not Herbert's belief. This is God's world, a place 
of great order, intelligence, and beauty. 

AU things that are, though they have sevrail wayes. 

Yet in their being joyn with one advise 
To honour thee. 



68 THE MAN 

Yet this divine order is confessedly hidden and 
much overlaid with afflictive circumstance. In 
disparaging things of time in view of those of eter- 
nity, the religious mind has large justification. We 
make, as Herbert says in The Country Parson, 
a miserable comparison of the moment of griefs 
here with the weight of joyes hereafter. Everybody 
perceives that things present shrink and die. 
However cheerful we may be, we cannot fail to feel 
a pathetic poignancy in nature's rude transitori- 
ness. We are hut flowers that glide, and often must 
wish that we past changing were. Accordingly, in 
Herbert's case, as in that of Plato and many an- 
other world-worn soul, longing looks are frequently 
cast forward beyond mortality's bound. 

Who wants the place where God doth dwell 
Partakes already half of hell. 

In moments of illness and disappointment, too, this 
longing may pass over into something like com- 
plaint. After so foul a journey death is fair. But 
such words draw no indictment against the uni- 
verse. Fundamentally, there is no evil in its struc- 
ture. Herbert's constant doctrine is that in its 
design and originally, each part of us and of our 
earth is rich in blessing. At first we liv'd in plea- 
sure. In Man and Providence we see how marvel- 
lous is creation, which we alone, the crown of it, 
can understand and enjoy. God has his glorious 
law embosomed in us. The two Antiphons bid us 



THE MAN 69 

continually to join with God and angels in glad 
rejoicing. Except sin, nothing can separate us 
from God; and not even that cuts us off from his 
love. 

For sure when Adam did not know 
To sinne, or sinne to smother^ 

He might to heaven from Paradise go 
As from one room V another. 

But precisely here is the trouble. The misery 
of the world is not grounded in the badness of its 
make or the harshness of its maker. Sin, and only 
sin, has brought it about. Lord^ thou createdst 
man in wealth and store, till foolishly he lost the 
same. And though Herbert, with many others, is 
pleased to figure sin as typified and finished in 
Adam's wilfulness and finally curbed by Christ's 
self-sacrifice, he does not fail to recognize that in 
these two types are summed up processes always 
open to man for bhss or woe. Whenever we turn 
from wilful sin, something of our sweet originall joy 
is restored; and in The Elixer, Employment, and 
many other glad songs, we are shown the method 
of still finding delight and dignity everywhere. 
On the whole, then, while Herbert as a dualist, 
who separates spiritual and natural things pretty 
sharply, is sometimes inclined to blacken earthly 
conditions for the glory of the divine, he always 
knows that we are living in our Father's house, 
that we ourselves are that house, and that neither 



70 THE MAN 

it nor we are accursed. In spite of his quivering 
sense of sin, fundamentally Herbert is an optimist. 



VI 

HERBERT'S mind was a capacious and 
disciplined one, which had the amplest 
opportunities and drew from them all they were 
fitted to yield. Many contemporaries record their 
admiration of his wide reading and fully assimi- 
lated knowledge. According to his brother, " He 
was master of all learning, human and divine." 

He has left a large body of Greek and Latin 
poems. He knew French, Italian, and Spanish. 
He was preeminently a student of divinity and 
poetry. With the law and the medicine of his age 
he was well acquainted. In natural science he had 
read and observed; he turned often and hopefully 
to astrology and alchemy; he was a connoisseur in 
manners, dress, and the refinements of life. In 
short, his intellectual curiosity was unceasing, 
broad, and minute. He followed persistently his 
own precept. 

To take all that is given ; whether wealth. 
Or love, or language ; nothing comes amisse. 

Yet this comprehensiveness was ever attended 
by its needful counterpoise, mental independence. 
Richard Burton, the author of the Anatomy of 
Melancholy, is the stock example of a man lost in 



THE MAN 71 

learning. He cannot write a page without quoting 
the opinions of many writers. He must lean, or he 
cannot walk. Herbert stands on his own feet, and 
seldom quotes. Whatever he utters is his own, 
wherever he may have found it. Gathering know- 
ledge on every side, he so incorporates it into his 
own mind that its original sources are not easily 
discovered. What is not fit for such incorporation 
he rejects, not with scorn, — with respect often- 
times, — yet with entire indifference. Although, 
as is shown in the next Essay, he was probably 
acquainted with most of the poetry of his time, his 
style gives no echo of any other poet except Donne, 
and of Donne he is no close imitator. The two 
strongest intellectual forces of that age were Lord 
Bacon and Lord Herbert of Cherbury. Herbert 
was in the closest relations with them both, yet 
neither contributed an3i;hing to his mental struc- 
ture. Since his intimacy with these two men well 
illustrates his mode of limiting himself and accept- 
ing only such intellectual influences as fit his spe- 
cial requirements, I will trace his relations with 
them somewhat in detail. 

Baron Edward Herbert of Cherbury was George 
Herbert's eldest brother. To us he is chiefly 
notable for his posthumously pubHshed Autobio- 
graphy, one of the most amusing accounts in our 
language of a roving ambassador, lover, duelHst, 
and man of fashion, who in his most improbable 
escapades never loses his courage, vanity, or hold 



72 THE MAN 

on his reader's interest. He was a poet, among 
other things, and in An Ode upon a Question 
Moved Whether Love Should Continue Forever 
employed, perhaps for the first time, the stanza of 
In Memoriam; using it, too, to express the same 
class of emotions for which Rossetti and Tennyson 
afterwards judged it fit. A volume of his verse has 
been well edited by J. Churton ColUns. He wrote 
also a history of Henry VIII, and of the EngKsh 
expedition to the Isle of Rhe. But his serious work 
was in rehgious philosophy. His De Veritate may 
be said to have founded EngHsh Deism ; for in it he 
attempts to identify natural and revealed religion, 
to show that the truths which we usually trace to 
the -Bible are of wider origin, are indeed involved 
innately in the human constitution. Man is by 
nature a rehgious animal. Now although Lord 
Herbert's book was printed in 1624, and probably 
written some years earher, although it related to the 
very subject which chiefly engaged his brother, that 
brother never mentions it. It encountered a storm 
of indignation which George Herbert could have 
only partially approved, so similar are certain of his 
own behefs. But neither its spirit nor method was 
his ; and he let it entirely alone, as if he had never 
heard its name. I find no reference to it in his 
writings, either in the way of acceptance or aversion. 
Herbert first met Lord Bacon in the King's 
company at Royston in 1620. I have already men- 
tioned how in his capacity as Orator he wrote 



THE MAN 73 

Bacon several official letters, acknowledging the 
receipt of his book and soliciting his aid for the 
University. The friendship of the two men seems 
to have ripened rapidly. Walton says that " Bacon 
put such a value on his judgment that he usually 
desir'd his approbation before he would expose 
any of his books to be printed." And Archbishop 
Tennison writes that after some unsuccessful at- 
tempts by others to translate Bacon's Advance- 
ment of Learning into Latin, the version was 
performed by "Mr. Herbert and some others who 
were esteemed masters in the Roman Eloquence." 
What this work of translation was, Mr. Spedding 
has been unable to discover. That it was consider- 
able appears from Bacon's words, when in 1625 
he dedicated to Herbert A Translation of Certain 
Psalms into English Verse: 

"The pains that it pleased you to take about 
some of my writings I cannot forget ; which did 
put me in mind to dedicate to you this poor exer- 
cise of my sickness. Besides, it being my manner 
for dedications to choose those that I hold most 
fit for the argument, I thought that in respect of 
divinity and poesy met — whereof the one is the 
matter, the other the stile of this little writing — 
I could not make better choice ; so with significa- 
tion of my love and acknowledgment, I ever rest 
"Your affectionate Friend, 

"Fr. St. Albans." 



74 THE MAN 

Notwithstanding this personal friendship, Her- 
bert remained totally uninfluenced by Bacon. 
That he had read Bacon's books, and clearly 
understood his place and importance, is evident 
from the three Latin poems addressed to him, 
besides the Knes of lament for his death; but Her- 
bert went on his own way, a way which he knew 
to be difiPerent from that of the great innovator, 
and did not allow himself to be turned aside. 

Herbert's failure to connect with Bacon and 
Herbert of Cherbury brings out an important 
intellectual trait which might easily be mistaken 
for a lack of ideas. Fundamental ideas he cer- 
tainly does lack. He is not a philosopher. He never 
concerns himself to search for basal principles. 
Bacon and Lord Herbert are questioners of the 
existing order, reformatory minds, who cannot 
rest in the world that is given them. They desire 
to probe it for principles through whose aid it may 
be brought to clearer knowledge. Herbert's mind 
was of an opposite type, the mind of the artist 
rather than that of the philosopher : the artist, 
who takes whatever material is given and out of 
it contrives forms of beauty. The application or 
development of ideas is his work, not the discovery 
of them. Some men are always challenging what 
they hear with the question, "Is it true?" I can- 
not imagine such an inquiry entering the mind of 
Herbert. There are others, however, and they are 
often men of force, who searchingly ask, "What 



THE MAN 75 

does it mean ? " And this is everywhere Herbert's 
question. He draws out of all that is around him 
its richest significance. Accepting the world as he 
finds it, he studies what it contains which fits his 
need, and then constructs, often out of forbidding 
material, a beautiful intellectual lodging. 



VII 

THESE intellectual pecuHarities must be borne 
in mind on coming to estimate Herbert's 
attitude toward divinity and the Church. In both 
he accepts all that is offered him; but he keeps 
his independence, his practical rationality, and is 
indisposed to fundamental questions. For philo- 
sophic theology he has neither aptitude nor inter- 
est. About the ultimate natures of God or man he 
does not concern himself. A few simple precepts, 
he tells us in Divinitie, are all the doctrines neces- 
sary for our guidance. There is usually a phihstine 
tone in Herbert when fundamental problems press. 
But in harmonizing what is traditional with pre- 
sent needs and in making dead matter hve, he is 
at his best, and often positively creative. The cur- 
rent religious notions of his time are accordingly 
all adopted without criticism ; but all are rendered 
rational, humane, exquisitely fitted to men's 
requirements, and even to their delight and play- 
fulness. Hell, for example, is accepted; but no- 
thing is said of its torments. It means banishment 



76 THE MAN 

from God, perpetuity of evil. The name Satan 
does not occur in his poetry. The Devil is men- 
tioned once, when we are told that he hath some 
good in him, all agree. Devils appear three or four 
times, most incidentally, except in the little poem 
SiNNE, which is written to show how devils are 
our sinnes in 'perspective. Heaven is no place of 
idle reward, but the opportunity to know and serve 
Him who is now obscurely dear. Christ has made 
atonement for us ; how, is not stated. No forensic 
explanation is allowed, but love alone triumphs in 
his death. Sin is self-assertion and alienation from 
God; salvation, union with Him and affectionate 
adoption of righteousness. The Trinity is adored; 
it renders God accessible on so many sides. And 
all through these accepted and transformed theo- 
logic notions runs a play of fancy, intimacy, pas- 
sion, with subtle intellectual diversifications and 
artistic adjustments, until the total effect is not 
that of a mind bound by a traditional system, but 
of one freely finding its own singularly real and 
triumphant entrance into a divine order. 

Just so he is devoted to his Church, and has 
rightly become one of its saints. Oley and Walton, 
with most of his subsequent biographers, have put 
him forward to exalt the glories of episcopacy and 
the abominations of dissent. And well would he 
be pleased to be employed in such a service ; for he 
assailed the enemies of his Church in his youth, 
sang her ordinances throughout his life, elaborately 



THE MAN 77 

ministered them during his closing years, and left 
a hand-book explaining how they might be exer- 
cised with the utmost efficiency. Her doctrine 
and discipline he never questioned. It is no won- 
der, then, that he has usually been classed as an 
extreme High Churchman ; and that those who 
are episcopally-minded, but have only a shght 
acquaintance with his writings, accept him as the 
convincing prophet of their cause. Coleridge 
thought that " The Temple will always be read 
with fullest appreciation by those who share the 
poet's devotion to the Dear Mother whose praises 
he has undertaken to celebrate." 

Yet enthusiastic students of Herbert are con- 
fined to no one communion. The majority of those 
I have happened to meet have been drawn from 
his old enemies, the Puritans and Presbyterians. 
Many Unitarian devotees I have known too, and 
several Agnostics. CathoHcs are more apt to find 
him distasteful. Herbert's extreme insistence on 
individual responsibihty, and his inclination to set 
the soul in soHtary communication with God, are 
rather Puritan than " Churchly." He was indeed 
a loyal follower of the EngUsh Church, but the 
grounds of his allegiance bring him within the 
sympathy of the Church Universal. In his day, and 
still more in ours, the Enghsh Church has found 
support among men of two contrasted types, — the 
obedient souls, who love subjection to authority, 
and are only at ease under the shelter of a com- 



78 THE MAN 

manded institution; and the free beings who find 
other sects narrow, and so turn to a historic ritual 
as the naturally selected and fit means by which 
the total spirit of man may piously express itself. 
Herbert, when closely questioned, declares him- 
self one of the latter sort. 

Bancroft, Laud, and other ecclesiastical leaders 
of Herbert's time held that a fixed form of both 
Church and State had been divinely estabhshed. 
Christ, it was beheved, had in mind a single sys- 
tem of organization, doctrine, and ritual, to be 
set up in the world forever. This He intrusted to 
his Apostles. The Roman Church, by virtue of 
St. Peter's headship, claimed to be in possession 
of^ this system. The Anglican leaders claimed 
that it was theirs. The question was not primarily 
as to the truth of the doctrines held, or the fitness 
of the one Church or the other to minister best to 
spiritual fife; it was one of historic fact : which 
Church did Christ have in mind ? And this behef 
that Christ had authorized a particular ecclesias- 
tical system found a readier acceptance because 
a similar beUef in regard to the State was already 
in possession of men's minds. At the beginning of 
the seventeenth century, those who were disposed 
to regard institutions not so much as a means but 
as ends in themselves held unquestioningly to the 
twin beliefs of divine right in Church and State. 

Another view, however, of the position of the 
Church of England after the Reformation was 



THE MAN 79 

that episcopacy was desirable on account of its 
reasonableness, its decency, its power of minister- 
ing to men's wants. Christ announced the prin- 
ciples which underHe every Church rather than 
the complete model of some particular one. This 
theory was set forth in its clearest and most pro- 
found form by Richard Hooker (1554-1600) in his 
Ecclesiastical PoHty. Throughout his second and 
third Books Hooker maintains that law, whether 
in nature, in the mind and heart of man, or in 
the constitution of society, is as much a revelation 
of God as is the Bible. That which discerns and 
appUes this widely revealed and revealing law is 
reason. Accordingly " the necessity of PoUty and 
Regiment in all Churches may be held without 
holding any one certain form to be necessary in 
them all." As a matter of history, episcopacy has 
descended from the apostles, but it is not on that 
account to be considered an indispensable neces- 
sity of Church Hfe. That form of government and 
ritual which bears within itself the marks of reason- 
ableness, order, and edification is stamped thereby 
as ordained by Christ as truly as if there had been 
an express command of his for it. " Inasmuch as 
law doth stand upon reason, to allege reason serv- 
eth as well as to cite Scripture. . . . For men to 
be tied and led by authority as if it were a kind 
of captivity of the judgment, and though there be 
reason to the contrary not to listen unto it but to 
follow Hke beasts the first in the herd, they know 



80 THE MAN 

not nor care not whither, this were brutish. That 
authority of men should prevail with men either 
against or above reason is no part of our beUef." 
The opposing views here stated in regard to the 
divine origin of the Church continue to distinguish 
its loyal adherents in our day. We know the two 
parties as High Churchmen and Broad Church- 
men. The one hold the Church to be divine be- 
cause it embodies a command of Christ ; the other, 
because of its adaptation to human needs. Through 
nearly all communions there runs a similar Hne of 
cleavage. The authoritative mind and the ration- 
aUzing mind are probably inherent in humanity 
itself. To which type did Herbert belong ? 
- Judged by his devotion to the Church of Eng- 
land, by his hostility to her foes, and by his in- 
sistence on elaborate ritual, Herbert is a High 
Churchman; but there is no indication that he 
held the tenet distinctive of High Churchmanship, 
the beUef that his ecclesiastical system had been 
designed and estabhshed by Christ. He never 
defends his position by maintaining for it an in- 
junction of Christ or an Apostolic model. On the 
contrary, he employs tests much more verifiable. 

Give to thy Mother what thou wouldst allow 
To ev'ry Corporation. 

In Chapter XIH of The Country Parson, 
where he explains how the church and altar should 
be arranged, he says that all this is done not as out 



THE MAN 81 

of necessity, or as putting a holiness in the thing Sy 
but as desiring to keep the middle way between 
superstition and slovenlinesse, and as following the 
ApostWs two great and admirable Rules in things 
of this nature : The first whereof is, " Let all things 
be done decently and in order; " the second, " Let 
all things be done to edification.^^ For these two 
rules . . . excellently score out the way, and fully 
and exactly contain, even in externall and indifferent 
things, what course is to be taken. To the same 
effect he speaks in his poem on The British 
Church, where he finds the justification of that 
Church to he in the fact that she is a mean 
between the Romish and the Genevan, — neither 
painted Hke the former nor undrest Hke the latter. 
He never asserts that the Churches he opposes 
have departed from a primitive pattern, or that 
his own conforms to it. The decadence of the 
Romish Church, which he traces with much de- 
tail in The Church Militant, is found in its 
lapses into moral evil, and not in any alteration 
of prescribed usage. Marriage, he urges in The 
Church-Porch (1. 19), is holy because man would 
have been obliged to institute it himself if God 
had not. Lent is commended because fasting is 
wholesome, beautiful to practise in company 
with others, in imitation of Christ, and as a part 
of a holy plan for the year. Nor can authoritie, 
which should increase the obligation in us, make it 
lesse. In baptism his Country Parson willingly 



82 THE MAN 

and cheerfully crosseth the child, and thinheth the 
Ceremony not onely innocent hut reverend. In 
matters so uncertain as praying to the Saints, we 
should consider that all worship is prerogative, 
and not engage in it where His pleasure no in- 
junction layes. He celebrated the Communion 
infrequently; if not duly once a month, yet at least 
five or six times in the year (The Country Par- 
son, XXII). He, Ferrar, and Donne all used on 
occasion in their services prayers written by them- 
selves, side by side with those taken from the 
Prayer Book. 

On the whole, then, it is evident — as Walton 
alleges in his long explanation of Herbert's use of 
ritual — that he joyously accepted his Church's 
order through a conviction of its beauty and ser- 
viceabihty, and not because of its antiquity or its 
externally authoritative character. He regarded 
it as a means, not an end ; a tool to be used, not a 
legal ordinance to be obeyed. He had no hesita- 
tion in shaping it this way or that, as occasion 
seemed to demand. That many of its parts were 
ancient might endear them, but was not the 
ground of their acceptance. A practice which 
could claim an express command of Christ, he 
welcomed for that reason. Practices not having 
such command, and which seemed not favorable 
to edification, he refused. Everywhere a lover 
of beauty and of subtle suggestion, he valued an 
elaborate ritual. Nothing could seem too rich to 



THE MAN 83 

clothe the sunne. An extreme Ritualist he might 
well be called ; only that Rituahsts rarely, like 
Herbert, base their ritual on grounds of beauty 
and servieeabiUty. With them, as with High 
Churchmen, the moving principle is generally 
conformity to an ancient command. For Herbert 
the appeal was to an internal need. 



VIII 

THIS paper presents no picture of Herbert. 
We do not see him here as he walked among 
men. The many features to which I have separately 
called attention are not drawn together naturally 
into a whole. As was said at the beginning, Her- 
bert is interesting through uniting in himself traits 
which are usually found opposed. More than in 
most men his words and works and fashion too 
are all of a piece. By psychologically detaching his 
conditions of body, temperament, intellect, and 
religion, I falsify him. To make him hve, these 
must be put together again, and so all be brought 
into that ordered beauty which Herbert every- 
where prized. But this singleness of the harmo- 
nized Herbert can be best read in his poems. 



.1 p<i(je of thi' Bodleian Manuscript^ s/ioiring the hand ir n't iu(j of a 
copyist. See Vol. I, p. 170. 



n 



■:% Ch^ci 



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Ill 

THE TYPE OF RELIGIOUS POETRY 



THE TYPE OF RELIGIOUS POETRY 

TO both the matter and the manner of English 
poetry George Herbert made notable con- 
tributions. He devised the religious love-lyric, and 
he introduced structure into the short poem. These 
are his two substantial claims to originality. To 
state, illustrate, and qualify them will be the ob- 
ject of this and the following Essay. 



OF course there was religious verse in England 
before Herbert's time. To see how consider- 
able it was, and how he modified it, I will roughly 
classify what had been written under the four 
headings of Vision, Meditation, Paraphrase, and 
Hymn. In the poetry of Vision the poet stands 
above his world, and is concerned rather with 
divine transactions than with human. Cynewulf 
in Saxon times looked into the wonders of the 
Advent, Ascension, and Doomsday. The author 
of Piers the Plowman, with visions of the King- 
dom of Heaven before his eyes, condemned the 
institutions of rural England. Spenser imagined a 
fairy realm where chivalry, holiness, and unearthly 
beauty dominate all forms of evil. Giles Fletcher 



88 THE RELIGIOUS POETRY 

in Keats-like verse pictured the four Victories 
achieved by Christ. The young Milton, just before 
Herbert took orders, celebrated the Nativity, Cir- 
cumcision, and Passion. And a few years after 
Herbert's death Sandys translated into English 
verse Grotius' Drama of Christ's Passion. In all 
these cases the writers are not primarily interested 
in their relations to God, but in his to the world; 
and these relations they behold dramatically em- 
bodied in certain divine occurrences. In such 
dramatic Visions we may perceive a kind of sur- 
vival of the early Miracle Play. 

But the imaginative point of view belongs to 
exceptional men. Much commoner, especially in 
Herbert's early life, was religious Meditation. 
Spenser had practised it with his accustomed 
splendor in his two Hymns in Honour of Divine 
Love and Beauty; so had Constable in his Spirit- 
ual Sonnets to the Honour of God and his Saints, 
and Drayton in his Harmonies of the Church. 
Many of Sidney's sonnets, of Shakespeare's, are 
reveries on the nature of the soul, its immortality, 
and its relation to its Maker. Sir John Davies 
studies these questions more abstractly in his 
Nosce Teipsum, as does Phineas Fletcher in The 
Purple Island. Lord Herbert looks at them ro- 
mantically in his Tennysonian Ode, inquiring 
Whether Love Should Continue Forever. Drum- 
mond gravely examines them in his Flowers of 
Sion. Fulke Greville draws up in verse a Treatise 



THE RELIGIOUS POETRY 89 

of Religion. Nicholas Breton has similar discus- 
sions of sacred themes. Many of Daniel's and 
of Donne's Epistles and Elegies are weighty with a 
moral wisdom not to be distinguished from reH- 
gion ; while Donne's Anatomy of the World, Pro- 
gress of the Soul, and Divine Poems would, if they 
were not so intellectual, be genuinely devout. 
Quarles' Divine Fancies are of the same character. 
Ralegh and Wotton, too, and many other poets 
less famous than they, have single meditations of 
sweet seriousness and depth on God, man, death, 
and duty. Yet religious verse of this type every- 
where bears the same mark. It studies a problem 
and tries to reach a general truth. Its writers do not 
content themselves with recording their ow^n emo- 
tions. Their poetry, therefore, lacks the individual 
note and is not lyric. If the preceding group of 
religious verse may be thought of as following the 
Miracle Play, this continues the traditions of the 
old Morality. 

Yet in religion there is more than sacred scenes 
and wise Meditation. There is worship, the open 
profession by God's children of their exultation in 
Him and their need of his continual care. Worship, 
however, especially in the time preceding Herbert, 
was a collective affair, in which the holy aspirations 
of the individual were merged in those of his fel- 
lows and went forth in company along already 
consecrated paths. For such national worship and 
such sanctified associations nothing could be a 



90 THE RI!LIGI0US POETRY 

more fitting expression than the Holy Scriptures. 
The Bible was the Magna Charta of the Refor- 
mation. To love it was to show one's hostility to 
Popery. In it all truth was contained. If one 
needed poetry, then, or sacred song, where could 
one obtain it better than in this its original source ? 
For a time it seemed almost profane to look else- 
where. The favorite form of religious utterance 
was the versified Paraphrase of some portion of the 
Bible. Naturally the Psalms were the part most 
commonly chosen. The collection of Paraphrases 
of the Psalms which goes by the name of Sternhold 
and Hopkins was drawn up in 1562, and was soon 
adopted into the use of the English churches. But 
almost every prominent poet attempted a few 
Psalms. To translate them became a literary fash- 
ion. Wyatt and Surrey engaged in it, as later did 
Sidney and his sister, Spenser, Sylvester, Davison, 
Wither, Phineas Fletcher, King James, Lord 
Bacon, Milton, Sandys, and even Carew. But the 
disposition to paraphrase the Bible did not con- 
fine itself to the Psalms. Surrey put Ecclesiastes 
into verse; Sylvester, Job; Quarles versified Job, 
Samson, Esther, and the Song of Solomon. Both 
he and Donne tried to make poetry out of the La- 
mentations of Jeremiah. Drayton told the stories 
of Noah, Moses, and David. Indeed, the strange 
fashion lasted down to the time of Cowley, who in 
1656 pubKshed four Books of the Troubles of King 
David, and translated one of them back into Latin. 



THE RELIGIOUS POETRY 91 

Paradise Lost itself may be regarded as but the 
full, gorgeous, and belated consummation of what 
Milton's predecessors in Paraphrase and Vision 
had already attempted. 

The Hymn, that form of rehgious aspiration 
most natural to us, developed slowly in the Eng- 
land of Ehzabeth and James, and gained only 
a partial acceptance during the reign of Charles. 
The Catholic Church had always had its Latin 
hymns. Many of these were translated by Lu- 
ther and the German reformers, and freely used 
in their churches. Luther's own hymns were 
much prized. The English Prayer Book is largely 
a translation of the Roman Breviary, and the 
Breviary contains many hymns ; but the makers 
of the Prayer Book left the hymns untranslated. 
Why so low an estimate was set on hynms in Eng- 
land is not altogether clear, but for some reason 
English Protestants contented themselves for the 
most part with versions of the Psalms. Perhaps 
they took example from Geneva. Clement Marot 
in 1544 translated fifty Psalms into French, and 
these were completed in 1562 by Beza and adopted 
into the service of the Reformed Swiss and French 
churches. Genevan influences, being strong in 
George Herbert's England, may have cooperatecl 
with other causes to hold back the promising 
movement toward giving the English people their 
own religious songs. For such a movement did 
start. Coverdale in 1540 published some Spiritual 



92 THE RELIGIOUS POETRY 

Songs in company with thirteen Goostly Psalms, 
mostly translated from German originals. The 
collection of Sternhold and Hopkins contained 
a group of hymns in addition to its translated 
Psalms, while a more marked advance in this 
direction was made by Wedderburn's widely used 
Book of Psalms and Spiritual Songs, printed in 
Scotland in 1560. This had three parts : the first 
consisting of Psalms, the second of hymns, and 
the third of popular secular songs to which a 
religious meaning had been attached. Half a 
dozen Songs of Sadness and Piety were in Wil- 
liam Byrd's Book of Songs, 1588. But these ad- 
mirable beginnings, English and Scotch, were 
only slenderly followed up. Such songs were ap- 
parently too individual, and could not compete 
with the broad and universal Psalms. As Puri- 
tanism advanced, the Bible tended to overshadow 
all other inspiration. It was not until 1623 that 
George Wither in his Hymns and Songs of the 
Church composed the first hymn-book that ever 
appeared in England, and obtained permission to 
have it used in churches. Eighteen years later he 
published a second and much larger volume, under 
the title of England's Hallelujah, but like its pre- 
decessor it met with much opposition. Hymns 
were not a natural form of devotion in the first half 
of the seventeenth century, and few were even in 
existence previously to Wither's book. Wither 
complains in his Scholar's Purgatory (1624) that 



THE RELIGIOUS POETRY 93 

"for divers ages together there have been but so 
many hymns composed and pubhshed as make 
not above two sheets and a half of paper." 



II 

SUCH, then, was the condition of Enghsh 
sacred poetry when Herbert began to write. 
To each of its four varieties he made good contri- 
butions. In The Sacrifice and The Bag he has 
visions of divine events. The massive reflections 
of The Church-Porch, The Church Militant, 
and many of the poems contained in my third, fifth, 
and eighth Groups give him high rank among the 
meditative rehgious poets. He also translated half 
a dozen Psalms ; and possibly the two Antiphons, 
one of the poems entitled Praise, and the songs 
which are appended to Easter, The Holy Com- 
munion, and An Offering, may pass for hymns. 
I do not reckon Vertue and The Elixer ; for 
though these bear his name in our hymn-books, 
their popular form is not due to him, but to John 
Wesley. 

Yet in spite of the worth of Herbert's work in all 
these four accredited varieties, and his real emi- 
nence in the second, his distinctive merit must 
be sought elsewhere. For he originated a new spe- 
cies of sacred verse, the religious lyric, a species 
for which the English world was waiting, which 
it welcomed with enthusiasm, and which at once 



94 THE RELIGIOUS POETRY 

became so firmly established that it is now diffi- 
cult to conceive that it did not always exist. In 
reality, though cases of something similar may be 
discovered in earlier poetry, it was Herbert who 
thought it out, studied its aesthetic possibilities, 
and created the type for future generations. 
Wherein, then, does this fifth type of Herbert's 
differ from the preceding four ? In this : The 
religious lyric is a cry of the individual heart to 
God. Standing face to face with Him, its writer 
describes no event, explores no general problem, 
leans on no authoritative book. He searches his 
own soul, and utters the love, the timidity, the joy, 
the vacillations, the remorse, the anxieties, he finds 
there. That is not done in the hymn. Though its 
writer often speaks in the first person, he gives 
voice to collective feeling. He thinks of himself 
as representative, and selects from that which he 
finds in his heart only what will identify him with 
others. On God and himself his attention is not 
exclusively fixed. Always in the lyric it is thus 
fixed. When Burns sings of Mary Morison, he has 
no audience in mind, nor could his words be 
adopted by any company. Just so the religious 
lyric is a supreme love-song, involving two per- 
sons and two only, — the individual soul as the 
lover and its divine and incomparable Love. We 
hear the voice of the former appealing in intro- 
spective monologue to the distant and exalted 
dear one. " Divinest love lies in this book," says 



THE RELIGIOUS POETRY 95 

Crashaw in writing of Herbert's Temple; and he 
justly marks its distinctive feature. 

A certain preparation for Herbert's work was 
already laid in the poetry of Robert Southwell. 
This heroic young Englishman was bom in high 
station in 1561, became a Jesuit priest, and in 
1592 was arrested by Elizabeth on account of his 
religion. After three years of imprisonment in 
the Tower, where he was thirteen times subjected 
to torture, he was executed in February, 1595. In 
the same year were printed two volumes of his 
verse. These include the long St. Peter's Com- 
plaint and about fifty short poems, many of them 
written during his imprisonment. Perhaps the 
best known is the Christmas song of The Burning 
Babe. All are vivid, sincere, and accomplished, 
and all without exception deal with religious 
themes. Southwell is accordingly our earHest reli- 
gious poet, the only one before Herbert who con- 
fined himself to that single field. Possibly Herbert 
derived from him the idea of taking rehgion for 
his province. Southwell's book was popular in 
Herbert's boyhood ; and when Herbert as a young 
man announces to his mother his resolve to dedi- 
cate his poetic powers to God's service, he uses 
language strikingly similar to that in Southwell's 
Epistle of The Authour to the Reader. Herbert's 
long early poem too. The Churgh-Porch, is in 
the metre of St. Peter's Complaint. Yet the tem- 
per of the two men is unlike and their aims diver- 



96 THE RELIGIOUS POETRY 

gent. In style Southwell connects with Spenser, 
Herbert with Donne. Southwell, too, like Crashaw 
afterward, lives in a beautiful Romish world, 
where the saints claim more attention than his own 
salvation. Fortitude is his principal theme, and 
reflections on the emptiness of the world. His is a 
stout heart. It does not seek intimate communings 
with its Master, and is seldom alone with God. 
The lyric yearning of the fearful lover is not his; 
though in such poems as Content and Rich, Sin's 
Heavy Load, and Lewd Love is Loss, he nearly 
approaches the meditative and sententious power 
of Herbert. That religious love-song, however, in 
which Herbert traces all the waywardness of his 
affection for the mighty object of his love, exhibit- 
ing the same fervency of passion which enters into 
the human relation, does not occur in Southwell. 

Nearer to Herbert is Thomas Campion, who 
about 1613 published twenty Divine and Moral 
Songs. Campion is an exquisite experimenter, skil- 
ful in discovering every sweet subtlety which song 
admits. Both in the personal quality of his reli- 
gious verse and in its beauty of structure, he may 
fairly be called a predecessor of Herbert. But he, 
too, is under Spenserian influence. His religious 
poems are pure songs, written — like most of his 
verse — with reference to a musical setting. They 
lack, therefore, that introspective passion which 
fills Herbert's throbbing stanzas. Herbert could 
have obtained little direct aid from them. He is 



THE RELIGIOUS POETRY 97 

more likely to have been indebted to Donne's few 
hymns and to his Holy Sonnets. In these there 
is Herbert's own deep communing with God. 
But instances of this occur all the way down the 
long line of English poetry. The Early EngHsh 
Text Society has pubHshed several volumes of re- 
ligious verse which, while usually of the types I 
have named Vision and Meditation, show occa- 
sional instances of personal appeal. Religious 
poetry of the personal Ufe had never been uncom- 
mon among continental Catholics, the mystics, and 
the German Reformers, though it had not yet 
found full voice in England. In no strict sense, 
then, can Herbert be said to have created it, for it 
is grounded in one of the most constant cravings 
of human nature. Yet the true discoverer is not 
he who first perceives a thing, but he who discerns 
its importance and its place in human Hfe. And 
this is what Herbert did. He is the first in Eng- 
land to bring this universal craving to adequate 
utterance. He rediscovered it, enriched it with his 
own ingenuity, precision, and candor, and estab- 
lished it as a theme for English poetry, freed from 
the mystic and sensuous morbidity which has often 
disfigured it in other Hteratures. 



98 THE RELIGIOUS POETRY 

III 

CERTAIN general tendencies of Herbert's time 
combined with peculiarities of his own na- 
ture to bring about this new poetry. Individualism 
was abroad, disturbing "the unity and married 
calm of states," and sending its subtle influence 
into every department of English life. The rise 
of Puritanism was but one of its manifestations. 
Everywhere the Renaissance movement pressed 
toward a return to nature and an assertion of the 
rights of the individual. At its rise these tend- 
encies were partially concealed. Its first fruits 
were delivery from oppressive seriousness, a gen- 
eral emancipation of human powers, the enrich- 
ment of daily Hfe, beauty, splendor, scholarship, 
a quickened and incisive intelligence. But as it 
advanced, the Renaissance opened doors to all 
kinds of self-assertion. Each person, each desire, 
each opinion, became clamorous and set up for 
itself, regardless of all else. In its remoteness Eng- 
land was tardy in feeling these disintegrating in- 
fluences. The splendor, too, of the Renaissance 
was somewhat dimmed in Italy and France before 
it shone on the age of Elizabeth. There it found 
a society exceptionally consoKdated under a force- 
ful Queen. Foreign dangers welded the nation 
together. It is doubtful if at any other period of 
its history has the English people believed, acted, 
enjoyed, and aspired so nearly like a single person 



THE RELIGIOUS POETRY 99 

as during the first three quarters of the age of 
EUzabeth. She, her great ministers, and the his- 
torical plays of Shakespeare set forth its ideals of 
orderly government. Spenser's poem consum- 
mated its ideals of orderly beauty, as did Hooker's 
Ecclesiastical Pohty those of an orderly church. 
Men in those days marched together. Dissenters, 
either of a religious, political, or artistic sort, were 
few and despised. 

But change was impending. A second period 
of the Renaissance began, a period of introspec- 
tion, where each man was prone to insist on the 
importance of whatever was his own. At the 
coming of the Stuarts this great change was pre- 
pared, and was steadily fostered by their inabiUty 
to comprehend it. In science, Bacon had already 
questioned established authority and sent men 
to nature to observe for themselves. In govern- 
ment, the king's prerogative was speedily ques- 
tioned, and Parliaments became so rebelhous that 
they were often dismissed. A revolution in poetic 
taste was under way. Spenser's lulling rhythms 
and bloodless heroes were being displaced by the 
jolting and passionate reahsm of Donne. 

The changes wrought in religion were of a deeper 
and more varied kind. Forms and ceremonies, the 
product of a collective religious consciousness, 
gradually became objects of suspicion. Personal 
religion, the sense of individual responsibility to 
God, was regarded as the one thing needful. Al- 



100 THE RELIGIOUS POETRY 

ready the setting up of a national church and the 
rejection of a CathoHc or world-church had ad- 
mitted the principle of individual judgment, and 
now the further progress of this principle could not 
be stayed. If a single nation might seek what was 
best for itself, regardless of the Papacy, why might 
not also a single body of Christians, regardless of 
the nation, — or even an individual soul, regardless 
of its fellows ? Our souls, the Puritans held, are 
our own. No man can save his brother. Each 
stands single before his Maker, answerable to Him 
alone. The social sense, it may be said, had de- 
cayed as an instinct, and had not yet been ration- 
ally reconstructed. It needed to decay, if a fresh 
and varied religious experience was to invigorate 
English life. The call to individualism was the 
most sacred summons of the age. All sections of 
the community heard it. Puritanism merely ac- 
cepted it with peculiar heartiness and reverence. 
In the High Church party ideas substantially 
similar were at work. By them, too, asceticism and 
"freedom from the world" were often regarded 
as the path of piety. What a sign of the times is 
the conduct of Herbert's friend, Nicholas Ferrar, 
who would cut all ties, stand naked before God, 
and so seek holiness! Ferrar was a religious 
genius, able to discern the highest ideals of his 
age, and courageous enough to carry them out. 
But how widely and in what unlike forms these 
individualistic ideas pervaded the community 



THE RELIGIOUS POETRY 101 

may be seen in three other powerful men, all born 
before Herbert died, — Thomas Hobbes, George 
Fox, and John Bunyan. The best and the worst 
tendencies of that age demanded that each man 
should seek God for himself, unhampered by his 
neighbor. 

And just as the seeker after God is at this time 
conceived as a detached individual, so is the ob- 
ject of the search, — God himself. Notions of the 
divine immanence do not belong to this age. God 
is not a spiritual principle, the power that makes 
for righteousness, universal reason, collective 
natural force. Such ideas come later, in the train 
of that Deistic movement of which Herbert's 
brother was the precursor. God is an independent 
person, exactly like ourselves, having foresight, 
skill, love and hatred, grief, self-sacrifice, and a 
power of action a good deal limited by the kind of 
world and people among whom He works. From 
Him Jesus Christ is indistinguishable. With Him 
one may talk as with a friend ; and though no 
answering sound comes back, the Bible — every 
portion of which is his living word — reports his 
instructions, while the conditions of mind and 
heart in which we find ourselves after communion 
with Him disclose his influence and indicate his 
will. In all this religious realism there is a vitality 
and precision, a permission to take God with us 
into daily affairs, a banishment of loneliness, and 
a refreshment of courage impossible to those who 



102 THE RELIGIOUS POETRY 

accept the broader but vaguer notions fashionable 
in our day. Without attempting to assess the 
completeness or truth of the opposing conceptions, 
we must see that the earlier has immense advan- 
tages for artistic purposes. This concrete, vivid 
thought of God sets the religious imagination free 
and makes it creative in poetry as nothing else 
can. All art is personal and anthropomorphic. 



IV 

HERBERT was a true child of this eager, 
individualistic, realistic age. In its full tide 
he lived. An exceptionally wide acquaintance with 
its leaders of philosophy, poetry, and the Church 
brought his impressionable nature to accept its 
ideals as matters of course. He has not the hardy 
and spacious nature that asks fundamental ques- 
tions. His mind is receptive, even if anticipatory. 
Too proud and independent for an imitator, and 
ever disposed to build his own pathway, he still 
employs in that building only the material he 
finds at hand. Rarely does he desire more. Small 
modifications, readjustments, the application of 
refinement and elevation where coarseness had 
been before, — these rather than revolutionary 
measures are what he adds to the intellectual stock 
of his age. He is no Wordsworth, Keats, or Brown- 
ing; he is related to his time rather as an early 
Gray or Arnold, as one who voices with exquisite 



THE RELIGIOUS POETRY 103 

art what those around him already feel. But if the 
ideals of his time shaped him, he in turn shaped 
them. Through his responsive heart and dexter- 
ous fingers they attained a precision, beauty, and 
compelling power which bore them far past the 
limits of that age. 

In his first years at Cambridge Herbert had 
thought of religion as primarily an affair of ritual 
and ordinance. This is painfully evident in some 
Latin epigrams written at this time in reply to 
Andrew Melville. This learned and witty Scotch- 
man, in some verses entitled Anti-Tami-Cami- 
Categoria, had attacked certain features of the 
English Church as meaningless and injurious to 
piety. Herbert repHes, but shows no devotional 
spirit in his smart and scurrilous lines. He does 
not write as a defender of God, of his own soul, 
or of holy agencies personally found dear. He 
defends an established and external institution, 
whose usages must all alike be exempt from criti- 
cism. But such blind partisanship was brief. As 
has been shown in my preceding Essay, the love 
of Anglicanism which fills Herbert*s later poems 
and his Country Parson is of a different type. 
It springs from a belief in the aid his Church 
can afford to individual holiness, collective con- 
venience, and permanent beauty. That Church he 
thinks of as a means and not an end ; and the end 
is everywhere communion of the individual soul 
with God. 



104 THE RELIGIOUS POETRY 

Strangely enough, it was during the Melville 
controversy and while defending ecclesiasticism 
that Herbert heard and accepted his deeper call 
to vindicate personal religion as a poetic theme. 
On New Year's Day, 1610, at the age of seven- 
teen, he sent his mother the two momentous son- 
nets which form the opening of my second Group. 
They and their accompanying letter announce a 
literary and religious programme which mark an 
epoch in the life of Herbert and in the develop- 
ment of English poetry. In these Sonnets, Walton 
reports him as saying, I declare my resolution to 
he that my poor Abilities in Poetry shall be all and 
ever consecrated to God's glory. Herbert, thus early 
discovering himself to be a poet, here fixes the 
field most suitable to his genius. He will give him- 
self exclusively to religious verse, something never 
before attempted in England except by Southwell. 
He fixes a special aim, too. He will reprove the 
vanity of those many Love-poems that are daily writ 
and consecrated to Venus. Though love is the proper 
theme of poetry, why should it be studied in its 
pettiest form as the half -physical tie between men 
and women, and not where it shows its full forccj 
volume, and variety when God and man are drawn 
together? Cannot thy love heighten a spirit to 
sound out thy praise as well as any she f These are 
accordingly his resolves : he will become a life- 
long poet ; an exclusively religious poet ; and while 
studying love, as do secular poets, — that fire which 



THE RELIGIOUS POETRY 105 

by God's power and might each breast does feel, — he 
will present it freed from those sexual Umits and 
artificialities in which it is usually set. 



TO these resolves Herbert remained, I believe, 
substantially true. Edmund Gosse and some 
others have asserted that he wrote secular verse 
also, destroying it when he took orders. For evi- 
dence they urge that it is improbable that a courtly 
poet should have written nothing in the current 
styles, that the religious verse left by Herbert is 
extremely small in amount, while it shows an 
excellence hardly possible without long practice. 
As this is a point crucial for the understanding of 
Herbert, I will briefly sum up the strong opposing 
evidence. 

Herbert's secular verse is purely supposititious. 
Nobody ever saw it and mentioned it, though in 
certain quarters it would have been mentioned had 
it existed. Oley and Walton, his early biographers, 
know nothing of it. They give us to understand 
that he wrote only on religion. In none of his let- 
ters is it alluded to, nor in his poems, — full though 
these latter are of regrets for youthful follies. On 
the other hand, we know that in pursuance of his 
early purpose he set himself at Cambridge to 
create a poetry of divine love. On this he was still 
engaged at Bemerton. In what period of his life, 



106 THE RELIGIOUS POETRY 

then, do his secular poems fall ? Surely not in the 
years when he was antagonizing secular poetry. 
But what others remain? Already, eight years 
before Herbert's death, Bacon, dedicating to him 
some Psalms, knows of his great reputation for 
" divinity and poesy met." And twenty years after 
his death, Henry Vaughan looks back on the 
loose love-poetry of the previous half century and 
counts it Herbert's glory to have opposed it. In 
the preface of Silex Scintillans he writes: "The 
first that with any effectual success attempted 
a diversion of this foul and overflowing stream 
was the blessed man, Mr. George Herbert, whose 
holy life and verse gained many pious converts, 
of whom I am the least." 

Nor need we be disturbed over the small quan- 
tity of sacred verse included in The Temple. Her- 
bert may have written much more. In the early 
manuscript of his verse preserved in the Williams 
Library are six poems which were not included in 
Ferrar's edition. How many others were similarly 
rejected we do not know. Differences of style 
among those preserved indicate that his writing 
extended over many years. In my Preface to The 
Church-Porch I have given reasons for suppos- 
ing that this poem was begun early and continued 
at different periods of his life. The many changes 
in the Williams Manuscript show how largely he 
revised such poems as he intended to retain. In 
order, then, to give his pen long and sufficient prac- 



THE RELIGIOUS POETRY 107 

tice, we have no need to invent secular poetry. And 
as regards the choice character of what was finally 
published, it may be said that fineness rather than 
fecundity was ever Herbert's characteristic. Till he 
settled at Bemerton he wrote no English prose. 

In view, then, of the fact that there is no evidence 
in behalf of secular poetry by Herbert, while there 
are strong probabilities against it, we may fairly 
accept Herbert's declared purpose as final, and 
beheve that he dedicated all his verse to the exposi- 
tion of divine love, experienced in the communion 
of each individual heart with God, and also an- 
nounced as a world-force in the coming of Christ. 



VI 

GOOD examples of the latter sort of love-lyric, 
where God solicits us, are The Pulley, 
MisERiE, SiON, Decay, The Agonie, the second 
Prayer, the second Love. In these the progress 
of God's love is traced, advancing majestically 
through humiliation and suffering to rescue little, 
fallen, headlong, runaway man. Yet here, too, 
while love is examined on its divine side, its work is 
not — as in the Visions previously considered — 
viewed pictorially and as a purely celestial affair. 
God is the lover of man, and his slighted appeal 
to the individual soul is the subject of the song. 
These poems are accordingly veritable lyrics. They 
deal with the inner life — with moods, affections, 



108 THE RELIGIOUS POETRY 

solicitations — not with heavenly transactions, 
dramatic scenes, objective situations. Indeed, facts 
and outward events have no place in Herbert's 
poetry. Only once, in the ninth section of his 
Latin Parentalia, does he mention events of the 
day. He might well say with Browning, whom in 
many respects he strongly resembles, "My stress 
lay on the incidents in the development of a soul; 
little else is worth study." 

But it is when Herbert turns to man's side of the 
great alliance, to man's wavering yet inevitable 
love of God, that he is most truly himself. For 
here he can be frankly psychological, and mental 
analysis is really his whole stock in trade. Yet 
what passion and tenderness does he contrive to 
weave into his subtle introspections! Hardly do 
the impetuous love-songs of Shelley yearn and sob 
more profoundly than these tangled, allusive, self- 
conscious, and over-intellectual verses of him who 
first in English poetry spoke face to face with God. 
The particular poems I have in mind are the fol- 
lowing: the Afflictions, The Call, Clasping 
OF Hands, The Collar, Deniall, The Elixer, 
The Flower, The Glance, The Glimpse, 
Gratefulnesse, Longing, The Method, The 
Odour, The Pearl, The Search, Submission, 
The Temper, Unkindnesse, A Wreath. But 
where shall one stop? To specify what belongs 
under this heading would be to enumerate a third 
of all Herbert has written. Perhaps those already 



THE RELIGIOUS POETRY 109 

named are enough to explain the mighty impact 
on his generation of the Herbertian conception 
of reUgious verse as personal aspiration. Out of 
his one hundred and sixty-nine poems only twenty- 
three do not employ the first person ; and half 
a dozen of these are addresses in the second 
person to his own soul, while several others are 
dramatic. Practically all his poetry is poetry of 
the personal hfe. " He speaks of God like a man 
that really beheveth in God," says Richard Baxter 
of Herbert. His matter is individual experience, 
reported in all the variety of mood and shifting 
fancy which everywhere characterizes veritable ex- 
perience. In it he will exhibit the profundities of 
love and thus confute the love-poets. 

And who are these love-poets ? Of course the 
whole airy company of Ehzabethan songsters, 
including Donne with his early wild lyrics of love. 
But it may be conjectured that in his Two Son- 
nets Herbert has especially in mind those men who 
have left behind them their long sonnet sequences. 
This is the more likely because most of these 
sonneteers came into close connection with him 
through the Pembrokes of Wilton. Sidney, who 
wrote the Stella series, was the uncle of the Earl 
of Pembroke. Spenser was the friend of Sidney, 
edited his sonnets, and four years after, in 1595, 
published his own series of Amoretti. Daniel, who 
brought out his Sonnets to Delia in 1592, had for 
his patroness the Countess of Pembroke. So had 



110 THE RELIGIOUS POETRY 

Constable, who printed his Sonnets to Diana in 
1592, and prefaced Sidney's Apology for Poetry 
in 1595. Drayton's series to Idea appeared in 
1594, their author the only one not closely con- 
nected with the Herbert and Pembroke circle. In 
the very year in which Herbert declared his re- 
solve to his mother, Shakespeare's Sonnets were 
published and dedicated to Mr. W. H., mysterious 
initials often supposed — though in my judgment 
erroneously — to be those of William Herbert, 
Earl of Pembroke, to whom the first folio of Shake- 
speare's plays is dedicated. With the leaders, 
therefore, of that group of men who domesticated in 
England the love-sonnet of Petrarch, Herbert was 
brought into relation, and he probably had them 
in mind when he resolved to initiate a movement 
in opposition to the artificial love-poetry of his day. 
For these men were artificial, and much disposed 
to "doleful sonnets made to their mistress' eye- 
brow." They undertook the complete anatomy of 
love. No phase of the passion was too trivial to 
receive their detailed attention, though the emo- 
tional situation itself often became so paramount 
as somewhat to hide the features of her who was 
supposed to inspire it. In fact, her existence be- 
came comparatively unimportant. Whether there 
ever was a heroine or hero of a single one among 
the several sonnet sequences just named has been 
strongly doubted. The elder Giles Fletcher, print- 
ing in 1593 his sonnets to Licia, says : " This kind 



THE RELIGIOUS POETRY 111 

of poetry wherein I write I did it only to try my 
humour." The writers of such sonnets were en- 
gaged in exploiting an ideal situation and in re- 
cording what was demanded by it. Nothing of the 
sort may ever have occurred in their own experi- 
ence. Very largely they borrowed their situations 
and even their phrases from French and Itahan 
sonneteers. A stock of poetic motives had been 
accumulated among the disciples of Petrarch from 
which each poet now helped himself at will. Sigh- 
ing was thus made easy. Mr. Sidney Lee computes 
that between 1591 and 1597 more than two thou- 
sand sonnets were printed in England and nearly 
as many more lyrics. The aim of their authors was 
literature not life, their ideals Italian rather than 
Enghsh, while under the sacred name of love they 
spun their thin web of delicate fancies, exquisite 
wordings, and intellectual involvement, prized the 
more the further it could be removed from reality. 



VII 

NOW in protesting against these love-poets 
Herbert does not take issue with their 
strangely elaborate method. This indeed he con- 
siders to be a danger, but one involved in the very 
nature of poetry. He had himself incurred it. 

When first my lines of heavenly joyes made mention. 
Such was their lustre, they did so excell. 



112 THE RELIGIOUS POETRY 

That I sought out quaint words and trim invention ; 

My thoughts began to burnish, sprout and swell. 
Curling with metaphors a plain intention. 

Decking the sense, as if it were to sell. 

What he objects to is that the matter of such verse 
is unequal to the manner. Here is a vast expendi- 
ture of good brains on trivial stuff. The love talked 
about is ephemeral, and there is no true beauty 
there. Beauty and beauteous words should go to- 
gether. Put soHd love, love of the eternal sort, 
underneath this lovely enchanting language, sugar 
cane, honey of roses, and we shall have a worthy 
union. He tries, therefore, to give the love-lyric 
body, by employing its secular methods upon 
sacred subjects, guarding them against its obvious 
dangers, but preserving its intellectual exuberance 
and aesthetic charm. Imagine Shakespeare's Son- 
nets with God as the a,dored object, instead of the 
lovely boy, and we shall probably have something 
like what Herbert was dreaming of. 

The wanton lover in a curious strain 

Can praise his fairest fair, 

And with quaint metaphors her curled hair 

Curl o're again. 

Thou art my lovelinesse, my life, my light, 

Beautie alone to me. 
Thy bloudy death and undeserved makes thee 
Pure red and white. 

He honors and imitates the poetry he attacks. 



THE RELIGIOUS POETRY 113 

And this imitation is not confined to diction. It 
extends to situations as well. Coventry Patmore 
has explained how 

" Fractions indefinitely small 
Of interests infinitely great 
Count in love's learned wit for all, 
And have the dignity of fate." 

Accordingly his lady's frown or smile, her tem- 
porary absence, his possible neglects, his punctili- 
ous execution of her trivial commands, the annoy- 
ance his small misbehaviors may have caused her, 
his delight when permitted to speak her praise, — 
all these and other such interior incidents make up 
the events of the lover's agitated day. Just such 
are the perplexities of Herbert's sacred love. Is 
he grateful enough ? What do his fluctuations of 
fervor and coolness import ? Surely his pains can 
come from nothing but God's withdrawal, and 
inner peace must signify that He is near. To count 
up how much he sacrifices for his great Love fills 
him with a content almost comparable to that 
which comes from seeing how unworthy he is of 
what he has received. To work for God is his great- 
est delight; his greatest hardship that he is given 
so little to do. Yet even in lack of employment 
praise is possible, and he can always busy himself 
with depicting past errors. Herbert, in short, is 
a veritable lover, and of the true Petrarchian t\^e. 
In his poem A Parodie it costs him but a slight 



114 THE RELIGIOUS POETRY 

change of phrase to turn one of Donne's love-songs 
into one of his own kind. Yet in his most ardent 
moments he keeps clear of eroticism. Never, like 
Crashaw and the Catholic mystics, does he mingle 
sexual passion with divine. Filled though his verses 
are with Biblical allusion, they contain hardly a 
reference to Solomon's Song. He is a man of sobri- 
ety, of intellectual and moral self-command. 



VIII 

BUT this is not the impression one at first 
receives. Whoever approaches these fervid 
little poems with the prepossessions of our time 
must regard Herbert as a religious sentimentalist, 
a man of extreme and somewhat morbid piety, 
attaching undue importance to passing moods. 
Unfortunately this is the popular impression, and 
for being such a person he is even admired. Often 
he is pictured as an aged saint who, through spend- 
ing a lifetime in priestly offices, has come to find 
interest only in devout emotions. For such a fan- 
tastic picture there is no evidence, though Walton's 
romantic Life has done much to confirm it. In 
reality, Herbert died under forty ; was a priest 
less than three years; spent his remaining thirty- 
six years among men who loved power, place, wit, 
pleasure, and learning; and held his own among 
them remarkably well. His Church-Porch and 
the compact sententiousness of his poetic style 



THE RELIGIOUS POETRY 115 

show a character somewhat severe, and far re- 
moved from sentimentality. His Latin poems on 
the death of his mother are distinctly lacking in 
piet3^ His Latin orations and letters are skilful 
attempts to win favor with the great. His admi- 
rable Country Parson is a clear-headed study 
of the conditions of the minister's work and the 
means of performing it effectively. In it, while 
Herbert is much in earnest about religion, he 
is sagacious too, calculating, and at times almost 
canny. I give an abridgment of his discussion of 
preaching : 

When the parson preacheth, he procures atten- 
tian by all possible art, both by earnestnesse of speech 

— it being naturall to men to think that where is 
much earnestness there is somewhat worth hearing 

— and by a diligent and busy cast of his eye on his 
auditors^ with letting them know that he observes 
who marks and who not ; and with particularizing 
of his speech now to the younger sort, then to the 
elder, now to the poor and now to the rich. By these 
and other means the Parson procures attention ; but 
the character of his Sermon is Holiness. He is 
not witty, or learned, or eloquent, but Holy. And 
this Character is gained first, by choosing texts of 
Devotion not Controversie, moving and ravishing 
texts, whereof the Scriptures are full. Secondly, by 
dipping and seasoning all words and sentences in 
the heart before they come to the mouth. Thirdly, 
by turning often and making many Apostrophes to 



116 THE RELIGIOUS POETRY 

God, as, " Oh Lord hlesse my people and teach them 
this point ; " or, " Oh my Master, on whose errand 
I com£, let me hold my peace and doe thou speak 
thy selfe.*' Some such irradiations scatteringly in the 
Sermon carry great holiness in them. Lastly, by an 
often urging of the presence and majesty of God, 
by these or such like speeches: ^'Oh let us all take 
heed what we do. God sees us, he sees whether I 
speak as I ought or you hear as you ought; he sees 
hearts as we see faces." Such discourses shew very 
Holy. 

I have quoted this passage at some length 
because it well illustrates Herbert's ever-present 
use of art. Just as we are ashamed of art and con- 
ceal it where it is employed, thinking it corrupts 
the genuineness of feeling, so is Herbert ashamed 
of unregulated spontaneity. He thinks he honors 
feeling best by bringing all its niceties to appropri- 
ate expression. He wishes to inspect it through 
and through, to supply it with intelligence, and to 
forecast precisely how it should issue in action. 
What comes short of such fulness is maimed, bar- 
baric, and brutal. Art he considers the appropriate 
investiture of all we prize, and beauty the mark of 
its worth. Accordingly he ever seeks 

Not rudely, as a bead. 
To runne into an action ; 
But still to make Thee prepossesst. 
And give it his perfection. 



THE RELIGIOUS POETRY 117 

There are few pages of his poems in which the 
preciousness of art-constructed beauty is not in 
some way expressed. 



IX 

WHEN, however, one has come to view 
things thus artistically, it becomes a de- 
light through the exercise of art to detach single 
ingredients of Hfe, free them from the belittle- 
ments of reaUty, and view them in their emotional 
fulness. To secure beauty, this is a necessary 
process. In the mixed currents of daily affairs, de- 
votion to my Love is checked by the need of sleep, 
attention to business, books, or food. I am occu- 
pied, forgetful, Hstless. These foreign matters 
the artist clears away. Starting with a veritable 
mood, he allows this to dictate congenial circum- 
stances, to color all details — however minute — 
with its influence, and so to exhibit a rounded 
completeness. For such artistic work, requiring 
intellectual reflection rather than the raw material 
of emotion, the sentimentalist is disqualified. It is 
not surprising, then, to find that all the six son- 
neteers named above, though men who profess to 
be spending their days pining over unrequited 
love, are really persons of exceptional intellect, 
energy, and poise. Sidney was an accomplished 
soldier, the idol of his time in mind and morals. 
Spenser was entrusted by his country with a share 



118 THE RELIGIOUS POETRY 

in the government of Ireland. Constable was a 
political plotter and refugee. Shakespeare was 
beyond all other men " self -schooled, self -scanned, 
self -honored, self -secure." Drayton was a geo- 
grapher and historian of England. And "well- 
languaged Daniel's " chief defect as a poet is that 
his stock of good sense is somewhat excessive. 
These men are no love-sick dreamers. They care 
for other things than Diana and Stella and Idea. 
They are artists. Of course they have felt the power 
of love and been shaken by its vicissitudes. But 
every poet takes on an attitude and utters the emo- 
tion which one so circumstanced should feel. It 
would be as absurd to suppose that in their sonnets 
these men are simply narrating facts of their own 
lives as to imagine that Walter Scott went through 
all the adventures he reports. Their interest is in 
beauty. Out of scattered and meagre facts they 
develop ideal situations. 

This is just what Herbert did. To-day it is 
usual to make a sharp distinction between the real 
and the artificial; but Herbert knows no such con- 
trast. When he is most artificial, he is all aglow 
with passion ; and when he describes one of his 
own moods, he is full of constructive artifice. That 
he was a truly religious man, no one will doubt. 
He certainly felt within himself the conflicts he 
depicts. In these strange lyrics the course of his 
wayward and incongruous life may accurately be 
traced. By attending to biographic hints, and 



THE RELIGIOUS POETRY 119 

grouping the poems in something like a living 
order, I believe we throw much light upon their 
meanings. The series becomes connectedly inter- 
esting, almost dramatic. A highly individual per- 
sonality emerges and takes the place of a conven- 
tional figure, a personality whose work cannot 
justly be understood without constant and minute 
reference to the incidents of his life and the ideals 
of his time. Yet there is duaUty even here. These 
personal experiences are after all not the main 
thing. They are starting-points for subtle intel- 
lectual play, occasions for exercise of that beauty- 
producing art which Herbert loves. Moods which 
exist in him merely in germ, or which coexist 
with much else, he heightens, isolates, renders 
dominant and exclusive. One must be dull in- 
deed not to feel the genuineness of Herbert's reli- 
gious experience. But he is no mere reporter 
or historian. We miss his power and splendor if 
we mistake his imaginative constructions for plain 
facts. To this sort of misconception we Ameri- 
cans, so little artistic, so veraciously practical, are 
peculiarly liable. Herbert's contemporaries were 
not so misled. They knew him to be a poet, sen- 
sitive therefore in experience, fertile in invention, 
rejoicing in shapely construction. Only seven years 
after his death Christopher Harvey wrote thus 
in his Stepping Stone to the Threshold of Mr. 
Herbert's Church-Porch: 



120 THE RELIGIOUS POETRY 

"What Church is this? Christ's Church. Who builded 

it? 
Master George Herbert. Who assisted it ? 
Many assisted; who, I may not say. 
So much contention might arise that way. 
If I say Grace gave all, Wit straight doth thwart. 
And saies, *A11 that is there is mine;' But Art 
Denies and says, *There's nothing there but's mine.' 
Nor can I easily the right define. 
Divide! Say Grace the matter gave, and Wit 
Did polish it; Art measur'd and made fit 
Each sev'ral piece and fram'd it altogether. 
No, by no means. This may not please them neither. 
None's well contented with a part alone. 
When each doth challenge all to be his own. 
The matter, the expressions and the measures 
Are equally Art's, Wit's, and Grace's treasures. 
Then he that would impartially discuss 
This doubtful question must answer thus: 
In building of his Temple Master Herbert 
Is equally all Grace, all Wit, all Art. 
Roman and Grecian Muses, all give way: 
One English poem darkens all your day." 

Such are the triple factors — pious fervor, 
intellectual play, and ideal construction — which 
equally cooperate to fashion Herbert^s religious 
love-lyric. 












fUav^'^ 







^ 







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^C^/f,*- tS 0u,irr^ 



ff. 



'1 










IV 

THE STYLE AND TECHNIQUE 



THE STYLE AND TECHNIQUE 



IN his poem of Providence, praising God for 
his wonderful world, Herbert says : 

And as thy house is fidl^ so I adore 

Thy curious art in marshalling thy goods. 

Herbert's own curious art we must now examine, 
and inquire how he marshals his poetic resources 
in constructing his stately meditations and reli- 
gious love-lyrics. How does he build his line, his 
stanza, and the general plan of his poem ? More- 
over, how does it happen that he is so diflScult to 
comprehend, and to what extent does he adopt the 
more extreme literary fashions of his time ? These 
are problems which only slightly concern the gen- 
eral reader, and are of interest chiefly to the stu- 
dent of poetry. But Herbert himself was a student. 
To these matters he gave much thought. Those 
who like to think his thoughts after him will desire 
to accompany him to his workshop and to watch 
his manipulations there. 

Rightly to observe him, we should keep in mind 
what he designs. It is an error to demand from all 
poets the same sort of excellence. Each has his own 



124 THE STYLE 

gospel, and looks out upon life in some special 
way. That way we must comprehend, and for the 
moment make it our own, if we would obtain the 
enjoyment which each is fitted to furnish. 

To Herbert poetry did not appeal primarily as 
a sensuous affair, rich in harmonious sounds and 
mental visualizations. So it had appealed to the 
idyllic Spenser and his followers, Giles Fletcher, 
William Browne, George Wither, and the young 
Milton. Herbert, it is true, was not unacquainted 
with the sweet strains, the lullings and the rel- 
ishes of it The joyous aspects of idealized nature 
moved him too, and he could on occasion coin a 
magic phrase ; but this is not his proper work. He 
is but slightly romantic, receptive, and pleasing. 
He has turned his back on the Spenserians and 
follows the new realistic and intellectual school of 
Donne, men whose minds are in revolt against grace- 
ful conventionaUties, and whose ears are tired of 
"linked sweetness long drawn out." What they 
seek is veracity, full individual experience, sur- 
prise, freshness of phrase, intellectual stimulus. 
At a moment's call their flexible wits turn in any 
direction, and enjoyment for them is measured 
by the abundance of th^ material their minds re- 
ceive. The meagre, the dull, the usual, are their 
detestation. He who can turn up some new as- 
pect of our many-sided world is their benefactor. 
The pleasure which an American takes in physical 
action, these vigorous creatures feel in action of 



THE STYLE 125 

the mind. They love intellectual compHcation and 
difficulty, and turn to verse because more sub- 
tlety and suggestion can be packed into it than 
prose admits. We must not, then, demand that 
these poets, " as they sing, shall take the ravished 
soul and lap it in Elysium." That is just what 
they avoid. They are determined to keep the soul 
free, interested, and observant. Nor is it neces- 
sary to inquire whether their aims are the best. 
Poetry has many varieties. It is enough to know 
that one type of it can be had when all its agencies 
are studied with reference to aims as energetic as 
these. I hope to show that Herbert did so study 
it, and that he chose the appropriate means to 
reach his ends. 



II 

LET us first consider, then, the formation of his 
hne; and under this heading I will include 
whatever relates to the foot employed, its regular- 
ity or variation, audits " enjambement," assonance, 
alliteration, rhyme. To effect his purposes the 
most familiar foot is the best. A movement of an 
unusual, swift, or melodious sort might distract 
attention from the thought, where all the pleasure 
is intended to be found. Feet of three syllables 
are accordingly discarded. There is no dactylic 
or anapaestic line in Herbert. And though half a 
dozen feet of this type are scattered through his 



126 THE STYLE 

book, they come in cases where an ehsion occurs, 
e. g. And much of Asia and Europe fast asleep, or 
where a break in the rhythm makes the meaning 
more emphatic, e. g. With noises confused fright- 
ing the day. His working foot is the common 
iambic, two syllables with an accent on the sec- 
ond. In this rhythm all but eleven of his poems 
are written, these eleven being trochaic, i. e. two 
syllables with an accent on the first. The Invi- 
tation and The Banquet are his most ambitious 
poems in this kind. Praise his loveliest. Every- 
where his rhythm is of extreme regularity. I 
know no other poet of his time so constantly exact. 
Jonson said of Donne that "for not keeping of 
accent he deserved hanging." Herbert does not 
follow his master in carelessness of rhythm. In 
all his verse I count only a dozen irregular lines; 
and most of these are due either to coalescence of 
vowels, or to the greater expressiveness thus given 
to the thought. 

But though regular, his line is far from mechani- 
cal. He has a feeling for its texture, and is skilful 
in varying it. Now he shifts its pauses; now he 
employs the familiar substitution of a trochee for 
an iambus, especially in the first foot ; now he 
clogs an unaccented syllable with many conso- 
nants or with long vowels ; now stops the sense at 
the end of a line, or again runs it over into the 
next. Here is a well-managed stanza from The 
Flower: 



THE STYLE 127 

Who would have thought my shriveVd heart 
Could have recovered greenness e ? It was gone 

Quite under ground, as flowers depart 
To see their mother-root when they have blown; 
Where they together 
AU the hard weather. 
Dead to the world, keep house unknown. 

The variety of pauses here, the many "substitu- 
tions," especially those of the last two lines, the 
frequent "running over" of the Hne, and the 
" clogging " by such syllables as nesse, hard, and 
keep well illustrate Herbert's skill in varying his 
rhythms. But he is seldom so swift in movement. 
By delaying his Hne he often brings out pensive 
emotion : 

My feeble spirit, unable to look right. 
Like a nipt blossome hung 
Discontented; 

or still more commonly blocks its passage and 
renders it rugged in places where he wishes the 
thought to Unger. 

The question of " enjambement " has attracted 
much attention among scholars. In the poets 
immediately preceding Herbert it is an important 
verse-test. The proportion of "run-over" lines 
in vShakespeare, for example, has been found to 
be a convenient means of discriminating the later 
from the earlier plays. But in the poets of Her- 
bert's generation this practice is so fully estab- 



128 THE STYLE 

lished as to have lost its value as a verse-test. In 
parts of Webster and Massinger " enjambement " 
has gone so far that the normal line has almost 
disappeared. In this matter, as elsewhere, Her- 
bert is sober. He uses about one " run-over " line 
to three " end-stopped " in his Cambridge poems ; 
and somewhat more, though not so many as one to 
two, in those of the Bemerton time. The number 
of "light" and "weak" endings, never consider- 
able, is rather less in the later poems than in the 
earlier. 

In accordance with the largely intellectual cast 
of his verse, Herbert employs little vowel color. 
In BusiNESSE, the rhjrme is carried throughout in 
e and o, both sounds being significant and effec- 
tive. In Home, nine of the thirteen stanzas have a 
rhyme in a. The sharp vowels i and e are favor- 
ites with him; and in poignant poems, like The 
Search, one suspects that they are intentionally 
employed. The broad calm vowels a and o do not 
so frequently suit his theme, though they domi- 
nate an occasional stanza. 

Tempests are calm to thee. They know thy hand. 
And hold it fast, as children do their father's. 

Which crie and follow. Thou has made poore sand 
Check the proud sea, ev'n when it swells and gathers. 

But all this is elementary. I know no group of 
lines in Herbert of which we can certainly say, as 
we can of passages in Spenser or Tennyson, that 



THE STYLE 129 

its vowel eflFects are an important part of the 
poetry. Keats speaks of the 

** Spenserian vowels that elope with ease, 
And float along like birds o'er summer seas." 

None of this sort have taken refuge in Herbert. 

Seldom, too, does Herbert strengthen a Une with 
alliteration. We have in Easter Wings, Then 
shall the jail further the flight in me; in The 
Church-Porch, Bring not thy plough, thy plots, 
thy pleasures thither; in Trinitie-Sunday, That 
I may runne, rise, rest in thee ; in The Glance, the 
beautiful phrase. His swing and sway ; and sim- 
ilarly in The Storm, Do flie and flow ; in Faith 
he has changed an unalhterative reading of the 
Williams Manuscript into Our flesh and frailtie, 
death and danger. But how far are these occasional 
collocations from the splendors of Spenser ! How 
strange in view of the alliterative exuberance of 
Southwell, Giles Fletcher, and other contempora- 
ries with whom Herbert must have been familiar ! 
While brief passages of Herbert yield felicitous 
sounds both of vowels and consonants, a good 
prose writer generally shows more sensuous feel- 
ing. In a poet so fond of music one suspects that 
this failure to appeal to the ear was not wholly 
due to dulness, but was part of a deliberate 
plan to push thought into the foreground and fix 
attention on harsh, intricate, and veritable experi- 
ence. 



130 THE STYLE 

Verses, ye are too fine a thing, too wise 

For my rough sorrows. Cease, be dumbe and mute. 
Give up your feet and running to mine eyes, 

And keep your measures for some lover's lute. 
Whose grief allows him musich and a ryme. 
For mine exclvdes both measure, tune, and time. 

In view of his intellectual aims, Herbert avoids, 
too, the long and melodious lines prized by his 
predecessors. The fourteen-syllabled line, the 
Alexandrine with its twelve syllables, played a 
great part in the musical Elizabethan verse; but 
there is no instance of either in Herbert. This is 
not because he makes two short lines out of what 
Hs predecessors might have written as a single long 
one. In the two instances where his added lines 
would make fourteen syllables, and in the other 
two where they would make twelve, each line has 
its independent life and its own rhyming word. 
His longest line is ten syllables, his shortest three, 
except in refrain. The frequent use of refrain 
might seem to conflict with his avoidance of the 
mellifluous; but I think he is attracted to it for 
the sake of its iteration of thought, and not for its 
value as sound. For driving home the dominant 
note of a poem it serves him admirably. 

As regards rhyme, Herbert follows the practice 
of his age in making it a necessary factor, not an 
occasional adjunct, of verse. Heroic blank verse 
was first used by the Earl of Surrey for translating 



THE STYLE 131 

the Aeneid, and was then shaped by Marlowe for 
dramatic dialogue. Its first considerable use for 
other purposes was in Milton's Paradise Lost. 
There is no instance of it in Herbert. Nor was he 
misled in another direction. Sidney, G. Harvey, 
Webbe, Puttenham, Fraunce, Campion, and 
others, mostly of the Pembroke connection, had 
been experimenting with hexameters and other 
deHcate and rhymeless rhythms. They sought to 
introduce classical measures, and to attune the 
EngUsh ear, long accustomed to accentual stress, 
to a quantitative. Herbert does not follow them. 
His classical training, his love of refinement, his 
use of these measures in Latin verse, his disposi- 
tion to experiment, all exposed him to the false 
fashion. But the themes with which he dealt were 
too serious, and the intellectual bent of his poems 
too distinct, to let him be turned toward dilettant- 
ism. Perhaps, too, he was protected by a certain 
indifference to the niceties of verbal sounds. What- 
ever the cause, he writes no unrhymed stanza. 

Modem poets often content themselves with 
rhyming alternate Hnes, allowing the remainder to 
go unrhymed. Herbert, like most of his contem- 
poraries, tolerates nothing so loose. To his mind, 
a poem is a thoroughgoing system of rhymes. 
Everything within it must have its echo. Two lines 
at the opening of Joseph's Coat are the only pair 
left unrhymed in all his verse. So exceptional a 
case is, I suspect, due to an error of the copyist. 



132 THE STYLE 

and I have proposed an emendation. In The Size, 
too, where a Une occurs with nothing to match 
it, Ernest Rhys and Dr. Grosart very properly 
beUeve that a Hne has dropped out, which they 
undertake to rewrite. Herbert often uses an un- 
rhjrmed Kne as a refrain. By this means he in- 
creases the effect of the refrain as a disjointed cry. 
Occasionally, too, as strikingly in Deniall, he 
conveys a sense of incompleteness and dissatisfac- 
tion by a final line left unrhymed. But absences 
of rhyme in refrain or abortive ending are not an 
abandonment of the rhyming principle. They pre- 
suppose it. If rhyme were not practically universal, 
-such intentional omissions would be ineffective. 

Yet while Herbert's rhyme is universal, it is rude 
and subordinate. Poets who rhyme largely usually 
care little for " perfect " rhymes. That is Herbert's 
case. He rhymes friend and windi feast and guesty 
Lord and stirred, mud and food, much and crouch, 
hlisse and Paradise, wedding and reading, matter 
and water, creation and fashion, runnes thin and 
coming in, unhappinesse and sicknesses, traveller 
and manner, school-masters and messengers. Such 
sounds serve well enough to mark an ending line, 
and are found on every page of his book. Stranger 
still to a modern ear is his use of identical rhyme, — 
pleasure and displeasure, please and displease, does 
and undoes, hold thee and withold thee, write and 
right, lies and lyes, know and no ; while the words 
art, hour, power, round, are each repeatedly made 



THE STYLE 133 

to rhyme with themselves. Rhymes Uke these were 
not unusual then ; nor even in the abundant rhyme 
employed, objectionable. Herbert has his favorite 
rhymes too. Treasure and pleasure occur eleven 
times; glorie and storie ten; and one and alone 
eight. 

When we turn from his employment of single 
rhymes to his combination of them, the same rough 
method is apparent. It would be alien to his pur- 
pose to study effects of contrast or intensification 
through neighboring rhyme. In the following 
examples accidental similarity to associated rhymes 
lowers the worth of an entire group : here, are, 
cleare, spare ; or in another four-lined stanza of 
the same poem (The Rose), choose, oppose, refuse, 
rose. In a five-lined stanza of Obedience he has 
bleed, need, thee, agree, deed. How the two sets of 
rhymes, which should be contrasted, jar in their 
similarity! In Sion, two successive couplets have 
things, wings, sing, king. In Jordan and Afflic- 
tion, six-lined poems, we have the following 
unpleasing combinations : ascend, sense, friend, pre- 
tence, penned, expense ; and again, ours, more, howres, 
store, no, bow. Of course instances occur where 
the chief sounds of a poem are not left to accident. 
I have already called attention to Businesse and 
Home. How pleasing, too, is the parallelism of the 
tenth and eleventh stanzas of The Search, where 
the repeated thought is accompanied by partial 
recurrence of the same rhyme! 



134 THE STYLE 

This brief exhibit of Herbert's practice will 
suflSciently show that his rhyming is managed, as 
it should be, by his intellect and not by his ear. 
That each Hne be brought into correspondence 
with some other line is a part of his poetic plan, 
a plan not suggested by the sensuous demands of 
his nature, but accepted with much else from the 
customs of his time. Once accepted, it is worked 
with the energetic and resourceful ingenuity which 
characterize him everywhere. But we have seen 
how in all his rhythmic work mystery has no place. 
Mind and matter are kept distinct. Compact and 
trenchant thought is what he prizes, and from 
this nothing is allowed to draw off the reader's 
attention. Those concords of sweet sound which 
in the great poets are of equal moment with the 
rational meaning, and ever inseparable from it, 
are not for him. His lines do not cling in the ear 
like strains of music. We recall them gladly, but 
only for their crowded significance. He did not 
feel those wide and romantic suggestions which 
lend untraceable magic to Spenser, Shakespeare, 
Milton, Keats, Shelley, and Tennyson. Such 
mysticism would have been incongruous with his 
purpose. 



THE STYLE 135 



III 



IN turning from the qualities of Herbert's line 
to consider those of his stanza, this should 
be noted : a poet was then expected to fashion his 
metre almost as much as his subject. Few stand- 
ard measures were at hand. Poetry was for the 
most part plastic, and only to a small extent had 
it settled into fixed forms. In this there was both 
gain and loss. It encouraged originality, and left 
many paths open which are now closed ; but from 
what was already done a poet could learn httle 
about the carrying power of different metres. He 
must try his own experiments. The principal 
forms already tested were these : In iambic five- 
foot verse, couplets, alternate rhymes, and heroic 
blank verse; then the "rime royal," or four-lined 
stanza with alternate rhyme, used by Surrey in 
his lament for Wyatt, and most famihar to us in 
Gray's Elegy. A couplet added made a favorite 
six-lined stanza. Chaucer and Spenser had used 
effectively a stanza of seven lines, rhyming ab ahb 
c c ; and Wyatt and Surrey had accHmatized the 
fourteen-lined sonnet, with two accredited rhym- 
ing systems. Spenser built up a gorgeous stanza 
of nine lines ending in an Alexandrine; and this 
line of six iambics was often used in alternation 
with one of seven to form "the poulter's measure." 
Couplets of seven iambics were common, as were 
those of four iambics used largely by Gower. 



136 THE STYLE 

These latter were often grouped into stanzas of 
four lines with alternate rhyme, our long metre. 
In ballads, our common metre — four iambics fol- 
lowed by three — was of frequent occurrence. 
Beyond these few measures each poet was left 
pretty much to his own devices. 

Of these dozen accepted forms Herbert em- 
ploys but half. As has been said already, he has 
no blank verse, Alexandrines, nor lines of seven 
iambics. He does not use Chaucer's stanza, nor 
Spenser's. While he is fond of the sonnet, he con- 
fines himself either to the Shakespearian form 
or to one peculiar to himself, and never employs 
in a sonnet less than seven rhymes. The great 
sonneteers divide their sonnet into two parts, 
the octave and the sestette, to each of which they 
assign a different function: the octave describing 
a situation or stating facts whose significance is 
then drawn out in the sestette. Herbert's seven- 
teen sonnets show no such inner logic. The ma- 
jority of them do not even come to a full pause at 
the end of the octave, and their reflective or appli- 
catory portion is usually contained in the last two 
or three lines. 

Yet if he rejects so much, it is only that he may 
create the more. He invents for each lyrical sit- 
uation exactly the rhythmic setting which befits 
it. How rich his invention is, and how flexibly 
responsive to the demands of distinguishable 
moods, may be seen in this : of his one hundred 



THE STYLE 137 

and sixty-nine poems, one hundred and sixteen 
are written in metres which are not repeated. Two 
out of every three are unique. I may exhibit the 
same fact in greater detail by saying that while 
forty-one cases occur of four-lined iambic stanzas, 
these present twenty different types. Nineteen 
of the twenty are used but once ; six of them 
twice ; two three times ; and only one as many 
as four times. The different effects are secured 
by varying the number of feet in a line, and by 
varying the rhyming scheme in all its three possi- 
ble ways : a a hh^ ah ah, and ah h a. Herbert's 
twenty-two poems written in five-lined iambics are 
also all unique. Of his eleven poems in trochaics, 
seven are unique and only two repeated. Such 
variety of practice is not exactly experimentation, 
for it does not result in fixing forms for subsequent 
use. But it strikingly exhibits the scope of his 
metric power and his delicate persistence in fit- 
ting form to thought. Each set of his emotions he 
clothes in individual garb ; and only when what is 
beneath is similar is the same set of clothing used 
a second time. So characteristic a feature of Her- 
bert's poetry is this ceaseless variety that it has 
seemed well to call attention to it in the notes. At 
each poem it is stated whether and where Herbert 
uses the metre again. 

Herbert has no favorite stanza. One type only 
does he employ as many as five times. Yet per- 
haps his inclination to long stanzas, and to those 



138 THE STYLE 

with widely spaced rhymes, deserves notice. He 
has forty-six varieties of six-lined stanza ; four, 
of seven-lined ; eight, of eight-lined ; and five, of 
ten-lined. In Justice, Sepulchre, An Offer- 
ing, and The Glance, one of the rhymes jumps 
to the fourth line away; in Complaining, Sighs 
AND Grones, and Ungratefulnesse, to the 
fifth; and in The Collar there are rhymes as 
wide as the seventh and even the tenth. The 
Collar is his only irregular and stanzaless poem, 
but formlessness was essential there. Indeed, his 
sense of form is so insistent that sometimes a long 
succession of couplets or alternate rhymes wearies 
him; he craves some sort of pause and separation. 
The Church Militant and Love Unknown 
are broken up into sections, almost like long 
stanzas, by the repetition of a line. The value of 
repetition he fully understands, and, besides the 
refrain, employs it in a multitude of covert forms. 

IV 

IN calling attention to Herbert's ability to shape 
a poem as a whole, we may claim for him a 
high degree of originality. Little had been done 
in this kind before. Our early lyric poetry is more 
remarkable for vividness than for form. Its writ- 
ers feel keenly and speak daringly. By some means 
or other they usually succeed in stirring in their 
reader's heart feelings similar to their own. But 



THE STYLE 139 

not often do they show that sense of order and 
coherence which is expected in every other species 
of Fine Art. Perhaps words are easier material 
than paint, stone, or sound, and lend themselves 
more readily to caprice. Of course without a cer- 
tain sequence no lyric could picture a poet's f eeUng. 
Near the beginning the occasion of the feeling is 
announced ; then follow its manifestations, and 
at the close it is usually connected in some way 
with action, resolve, or judgment. Such an emo- 
tional scheme is often unfolded with much deli- 
cacy and evenness in the songs of Campion, and 
in both the songs and sonnets of Sidney and 
Shakespeare. 

But these are vague divisions, the second espe- 
cially so. They do not alone give firmness of form. 
They make poetic writing rather than finished 
poems. Stirred by some passion, real or imaginary, 
the poet begins to write, pours forth his feehng 
until the supply or the reader is exhausted, and 
then stops. He has no predetermined beginning, 
middle, and end. Part with part has no private 
amitie. The place and amount of each portion is 
fixed by no plan of the whole, but rather by the 
waywardness of the writer. In most early lyrics, 
even the best, stanzas might be omitted, added, or 
transposed, without considerable damage. Each 
stands pretty much by itself. In the two stanzas 
of Ben Jonson's stirring song, " Drink to me only 
with thine eyes," neither is necessary to the other. 



140 THE STYLE 

Those of his "Queen and huntress chaste and 
fair" might about as well have taken any other 
order. This is the more remarkable because into 
the drama Jonson carried form in much the same 
conscious way that Herbert carried it into lyric 
poetry. But if in the early lyrists the desire for 
closely knitted structure is slight, it is feebler still in 
the writers of reflective verse. These men wander 
wherever thought or a good phrase leads, and are 
rarely restrained by any compacted plan. In short, 
we read most of the early poetry for the sake of 
splendid bursts, vigorous stanzas, pithy lines. To 
obtain these, we willingly pass through much that 
is formless and uninteresting. Seldom do we get 
singleness of impression. Sidney in his Defence of 
Poesie complained of the poets of his day that "their 
matter is quodlihet, which they never marshall into 
any assured rank, so that the readers cannot tell 
where to put themselves." Until Herbert appeared, 
unity of structure was little regarded. 

To such articulated structure Herbert devoted 
himself, and what he accomplished forms one of 
his two considerable contributions to English 
poetry. In his pages we see for the first time a 
great body of lyrics in which the matter and the 
form are at one. Impulsive and ardent though 
Herbert seems, he holds himself like a true artist 
responsive to his shaping theme. Not that he ac- 
quires power of this sort at once, or has it always. 
The Church-Porch is loose, and in many of the 



THE STYLE 141 

ecclesiastical poems of his Cambridge years, there 
is only such general structure as springs from 
announced theme, emotional development, and 
moral ending. But the demand for form is deep 
in him, and more and more he puts himself at its 
service. In something like a quarter of his work 
he attains a solidity of structure hitherto unknown. 
That his achievements in this field exercised 
little influence over his immediate successors is 
true, and surprising. But he set the most difficult 
of examples. Strong form is not catching. Only 
a man of energy and restraint is capable of it. 
Other quaUties, too, of Herbert's style obscured 
his form. So rich is he in suggestion, so intellect- 
ually difficult, so tender in religious appeal, that 
attention is easily withdrawn from his structure 
and becomes fixed on details. Whatever the cause, 
the poets who follow him, and are most affected 
by his invention of the religious love-lyric, have 
small regard for his second invention, — structural 
plan. C. Harvey, Vaughan, Crashaw, Traherne, 
are conspicuously lacking in restraint. They do 
not appear to notice the artistic weaving of Her- 
bert's verse, which has brought it through the 
rough usage of nearly three centuries ; while their 
own often more brilliant work now lies largely 
neglected. Even to-day few think of Herbert as 
one of our pioneers in poetic structure. 

Briefly to present the evidence for this solidity 
of form is not easy. The point to be proved is 



142 TBDE STYLE 

not that Herbert exercised remarkable skill in 
building certain poems. Occasional fine structure 
was not unknown before. What Herbert did was 
to vindicate unity of design as a working factor of 
poetry. He showed how by its use much may be 
said in little. He made it plain that any theme, 
if fully and economically embodied, will not lack 
interest. It is therefore the frequency of his work 
in this kind which I wish to show. This I think 
I can do most effectively by dividing his one hun- 
dred and sixty-nine poems into four groups, accord- 
ing to the prevalence in them of the principle of 
form. There appear to be fifty-eight in which there 
is no wandering from a predetermined plan. But 
recognizing that judgments may differ on a matter 
so deHcate, I print the Ust; throwing out, however, 
the seventeen sonnets, as a species of verse where 
form would more naturally be found; and also 
the half-dozen curiosities, like The Altae and 
Easter Wings, whose form is usually supposed to 
be their all. The corrected fist (1) is then the fol- 
lowing: Aaron, To All Angels and Saints, 
The British Church, Businesse, Clasping of 
Hands, Our Life is Hid, Decay, Deniall, 
Dialogue, Dotage, Frailtie, The Glance, 
HuMiLiTiE, A True Hymne, the second Jor- 
dan, Judgement, Life, Love Unknown, Man's 
Medley, The Method, Mortification, The 
Pearl, The Pilgrimage, the second Prayer, 
The Pulley, The Qxhdditie, Sinnes Round, 



THE STYLE 143 

Submission, Ungratefulnesse, The Windows, 
The World. I do not assert that these are Her- 
bert's best poems. In many cases they are not. 
But let any one read ten of them, drawn at ran- 
dom, and he will be convinced that Herbert was 
the master of a method which had not been prac- 
tised in EngUsh poetry before. 

K we attempt to catalogue (4) those of his 
poems which are most lacking in form, I suppose 
they will be these : Charms and Knots, The 
Church-Porch, The Discharge, Divinitie, 
The Elixer, Grieve Not, Faith, Home, Lent, 
Longing, Man, Miserie, the third Praise, The 
Priesthood, Providence, The Search, Sighs 
AND Grones, Sunday, the first Temper, the first 
Vanitie. Yet how remarkable is the Hst ! Though 
less completely formed than an)i;hing else in Her- 
bert, these twenty poems are superior in structure 
to most of the verse of Herbert's day, or indeed 
of ours. 

Between these extreme lists (1) and (4) I find 
two others, one (2) of sixty poems, in which there 
is an evident plan adhered to throughout, a plan, 
however, which lacks the rigidity of outline which 
marked list (1); and another (3) of thirty-four, 
in which, while unity has not disappeared, there 
are considerable digressions from the proposed 
theme. Examples of (2) are Assurance, The 
Bag, The Church Militant, The Church- 
Floore, Conscience, The Crosse, Dulnesse, 



144 THE STYLE 

The Familie, The Flower, The Forerunners, 
GiDDiNEssE, Gratefulnesse, Obedience, The 
Odour, Peace, The Rose, The Sacrifice, The 
Size, Vertue, Unkindnesse, — all poems of ad- 
mirable texture, and in most eases working out 
their purpose better than if they had been more 
severe. Examples of (3), where the form is more 
broken, are the Afflictions, The Banquet, 
The Call, Church-Rents and Schismes, Com- 
plaining, CoNSTANCiE, Content, The Glimpse, 
Grace, Grief, Mattens, Repentance, The 
Storm. It will be noticed that these, which are less 
completely formed, are often designedly so either 
for the sake of expressing the incoherence of grief, 
or, in reflective poems, to afford ampler range for 
thought. The general result of our inquiry must 
be astonishment that in the beginning, when firm 
form was first discovered by our poetry as an im- 
portant element of its power, it should have been 
introduced on such an extensive scale by a single 
writer. 

But though whoever reads the poems of lists 
(1) and (2) will feel their solidity, it is well to ex- 
amine the means by which such structural firm- 
ness is secured. One simple means distinguishes 
Herbert's work from that of most of his brother 
poets, — he knows when to stop. Each poem takes 
up a single mood, relation, or problem of divine 
love, and ends with its clear exposition. His poems 
are, accordingly, at once short and adequate. Only 



THE STYLE 145 

four of them exceed one hundred and fifty lines. 
Ten are between fifty and a hundred; sixty, be- 
tween twenty-five and fifty; and the remainder, 
nearly a hundred, are less than twenty-five. Such 
brevity is the more significant when we remember 
that Herbert is no epigrammatist, like Herrick, 
but is handhng subjects of unusual range and pro- 
fundity. 

Three stanzas make one of his favorite lengths. 
The theme is announced in the first, and is 
then seen to divide ; one of the divisions being 
treated in the second, the other in the third stanza. 
This plan is followed with more or less precision 
in two of the Afflictions, H. Baptisme, The 
Call, Church-Lock and Key, Church-Musick, 
Church-Rents and Schismes, Dotage, Frail- 
tie, The Glance, the two Jordans, Judgement, 
Life, Love, Marie Magdalene, Nature, The 
PosiE, The Quidditie, Sinnes Round, The 
Storm, Trinitie-Sunday, The Windows. At 
times, however, the opposing aspects of the sub- 
ject are so evident that a stanza can be given to 
each without the need of introduction, an arrange- 
ment very satisfactory to Herbert's economical 
and antithetic soul. Examples are the second An- 
tiphon, Bitter-Sweet, Clasping of Hands, 
The Dawning, Easter Wings, The Foil, the 
first Justice, the first Sinne, The Water- 
Course. 

In a few instances narrative directs the order, as 



146 THE STYLE 

in the great Affliction, The Bag, The Church 
Militant, Humilitie, Love Unknown, The 
Pilgrimage, Peace, The Sacrifice. Here the 
plan permits looseness, and the poems are less 
shapely. When the time-order followed is of a 
more subtle kind, almost unobservedly accompa- 
nying the development of an inner mood, Herbert 
reaches his climax of easy and inevitable struc- 
ture. Cases are Artillerie, Assurance, The 
Collar, Conscience, The Crosse, Dialogue, 
The Flower, Gratefulnesse, The Method, 
Mortification, The Priesthood, The Pulley, 
SiON, The Starre. 

Apart from solidity of general structure, Her- 
bert is ingenious in making minor modifications 
of form bring out peculiarities of his subject. 
Baldly stated, these may appear artificial contriv- 
ances ; but they appear so only because we do 
not at once notice that inherent union of subject 
and form which was in Herbert's mind. He will 
make everything meaningful, and altogether ban- 
ish wilfulness. Let me not think an action mine 
own way is ever his artistic prayer. Accordingly 
he tries to supply every intellectual subtlety of his 
subject with its appropriate means of outward 
expression. Sometimes this is furthered by an 
adjustment of rhyme. Li Aaron and Clasping 
of Hands, where each stanza is to present dif- 
ferent aspects of a single thought, the stanzas have 
identical rhymes. In Man, which is dedicated 



THE STYLE 147 

to showing the range and variety of man's nature, 
almost every stanza has a different rhyming- 
system. By rhyming together the first and last 
Unes of each long stanza of The Odour, a curi- 
ously shut-in yet pervasive quahty is given to that 
fragrant poem. And when it is desired to show 
how in the vicious circle of Sinne one step leads to 
another, the final line of each stanza becomes the 
first of the next, and the closing line of the poem 
is identical with the beginning. I have already 
noticed the broken rhymes of Deniall, which 
accord so beautifully with the inner failure of the 
poem ; and perhaps I should mention the suc- 
cessive pruning of the rhymes in Paradise, and 
the triphcity of everything in Trinitie-Sunday. 

But Herbert has a final group of poems which 
have done much to alienate from him the sym- 
pathy of modern readers, though they commended 
him to his own generation. They are poems whose 
eccentricity of form seems to have no inner justi- 
fication. Of course we know that every species 
of elaborate artificiality was then in fashion. Em- 
broidery pleased. Probably Herbert himself did 
on occasion enjoy a ruffled shirt. I will not at- 
tempt fully to defend him. I merely say the num- 
ber of such poems is small. I count but nine : The 
Altar, An Anagram, Easter Wings, Heaven, 
Hope, Jesu, Love-Joy, Our Life is Hid, A 
Wreath. And are these all artificial ? I am will- 
ing to throw over An Anagram, Heaven, and 



148 THE STYLE 

Jesu, as badly marked with the time-spirit. But 
I maintain that the others are at worst pretty 
play, while often their strange forms are closely 
connected with their passionate matter. One who 
was ever accustomed to let significance dictate 
structure has here certainly pushed his principle 
to a fantastic extreme. Our feehng does not easily 
accompany his. But this is largely due to dulness. 
We let ourselves be repelled by outward strange- 
ness, and do not notice how in most of these cases 
Herbert has made his start from within. In the 
notes I have endeavored to show that many of 
these are veritable poems, which could not be more 
appropriately fashioned. Let any one study sym- 
pathetically Hope, Paradise, A Wreath, Easter 
Wings, Love-Joy, and he will discover how ex- 
quisite poetry can be when most remote from 
present habits of thought. 



V 

ONE striking peculiarity of Herbert's style 
remains to be considered, its obscurity. To 
this his antique diction is often thought to con- 
tribute, and no doubt modern readers do find 
some of Herbert's words unfamiliar. He lived 
three hundred years ago. Words, it is true, are 
strangely durable, more so than the everlasting 
hills ; but a series of centuries has its effect in 
superseding some and transforming others. Her- 



THE STYLE 149 

bert's language has worn remarkably well. He 
had an instinct for the firm, clear, well-rooted, 
and richly significant words, and no incHnation 
like Spenser or Browning for words of an antique, 
fanciful, local, or half-built sort. His diction, 
therefore, belongs in general to no special age. 
Less than fifty of his words would appear strange 
in a book of to-day. But of these fifty something 
like half are altogether dead, and when met with 
in his pages convey to an ordinary reader no 
meaning whatever. Such words are these : bandie, 
hehither, cyenSy demain, glozingy handsell, imp, 
indear, ingrosSy jag, licorous, lieger, ojptick, per- 
spective, pomander, quidditie, quip, rheume, sconse, 
snudge, sommers, stour, vizard. Yet these, after 
all, occasion little practical difficulty. They occur 
only once or twice, and are then easily explain- 
able. More trouble is Ukely to arise from a 
second small group of misleading words, i. e. 
familiar and frequent words used by Herbert in 
senses which differ in some particular from those 
current to-day; e. g. complexion with him = dis- 
position or temperament; consort = concert; his 
of ten = its; move often = propose, request; neat= 
refined, subtle; owe often = own; pretend= seek to 
obtain; sphere often = rather the heaven than the 
earth, i. e., the concave inclosure of the universe 
assumed in the Ptolemaic astronomy ; stay often 
=be absent; ^ore = abundance ; storie =lnsioTy ; 
still= alwaiys ; sweet usually = sweet-smelling; then 



150 THE STYLE 

often = than ; thrall = hondsige; whenas = while. 
Through these deceptive words a modern reader is 
likely enough to miss Herbert's meaning. When 
several of them occur together, they may altogether 
destroy the understanding of a line; e. g. line 53 
of Providence: Nothing ingendred doth prevent 
his meat. He will often miss the rhyme too, unless 
he remembers that the Irish pronunciation of Eng- 
lish is much nearer to Herbert's than is our own. 
For example, in a stanza of Constancie, lines 2, 
3, and 5 rhyme: 

Whom none can work or wooe 
To use in any thing a trick or sleight, 
For above all things he abhorres deceit. 

His words and works and fashion too 
All of a piece, and all are cleare and straight. 

But when it appears that time has damaged his 
words but slightly, and that he more than any of 
his predecessors or contemporaries studied the 
sequence of his thought and avoided caprice, 
Herbert's prevailing obscurity becomes the more 
puzzling. What can have made a writer whose 
diction is on the whole sound, and who is ever alert, 
artistic, and highly rational, so difficult to read? 
For difficult he is. No other English poet, not even 
Donne or Browning, gives his reader such fre- 
quent pause. Nearness of acquaintance does not 
remove the intricacy. It is perpetual. Or if at 
times poems like The Elixer, Gratefulnesse, 



THE STYLE 151 

The Method, Submission, the second Temper, 
Unkindnesse, show that he might have been as 
simple in verse as he regularly is in prose, the 
moment's lucidity merely makes the prevailing 
darkness deeper. A trait of style so marked in 
a man of unmistakable power is apt to be con- 
nected with his genius. What at first appears a 
surface blemish, — - and a strange one, — traced 
intimately, runs down to the sources of strength. 
I believe the intricacy of Herbert is not a matter 
to be denied, ignored, or condoned, but to be 
studied, sympathized with, loved. It has been 
induced by what is most distinctive of him. This 
jangled utterance is his true tone. He could not 
have spoken so well if he had spoken more clearly. 
A considerable cause of both the obscurity and 
the value of Herbert's verse is to be found in its pri- 
vate character. None of his English poems received 
public criticism. That they were written with a pur- 
pose of ultimate publication appears in the direct 
appeals to a reader in The Dedication, The 
Church-Porch, Superliminare, The Rose, and 
perhaps The Church-Floore. The corrections 
made during the time between the Williams Manu- 
script and the Bodleian point in the same direction, 
as do the many references to his art which are scat- 
tered throughout his book. The kind of private 
circulation which his poems obtained is shown by 
the Williams Manuscript itself. They were handed 
about among his friends. But a writer's mental 



152 THE STYLE 

attitude is of one kind when he is directly pre- 
paring matter for the press ; it is widely different 
when year after year he goes on analyzing his inner 
life, with only a general notion that perhaps some 
day the public may be informed. In the first case, 
the expected judgment of readers is sure to be a 
weighty influence, steadily constraining toward 
intelligibility. In the second, a writer is left very 
much to himself. Individuality of diction, accu- 
racy and fulness of record, now become the quali- 
ties sought. What makes for display and for swift 
solicitation of other minds is neglected. Notable 
examples of private verse are Shakespeare's Son- 
nets and Mrs. Browning's Sonnets from the Portu- 
guese. Every one will see that these would have 
been written differently if designed immediately 
for the public eye. In such poems we have the 
advantage that the writers 

Admit us to their bed-chamber, before 

They appeare trim and drest 
To ordinarie suitours at the doore. 

Yet for such intimate disclosures we pay heavily. 
We are left to find our own way to the right point 
of view. Connections of thought which existed in 
the poet's mind are not worked out. If we do not 
at once catch his mood, all is blind. Transitions 
and allusions are abrupt, not calculated with a 
view to our comprehension. And such is the poetry 
of Herbert, precious in its very obscurity. We hear 



THE STYLE 153 

its writer thinking. These verses were written for 
himself, and require imagination on our part. We 
must know where to stand, and observe. In one 
mood all will be clear which in another was hope- 
lessly tangled. Such imaginative difficulties will 
be eased by the arrangement of the poems here 
adopted, and by the brief statement of the Subject 
prefixed to each. 

Perhaps, too, in this connection the strangeness 
of Herbert's titles is partially explainable. If he 
had prepared his book for the press, he would not 
have been likely to give to five poems the same 
title. Affliction. And what does Artillerie 
mean, or The Bunch of Grapes, Church-Lock 
AND Key, Clasping of Hands, The Collar, 
The Discharge, Dotage, The Elixer, Gid- 
dinesse. The Glance, Joseph's Coat, Man's 
Medley, Mortification, The Pulley, The 
QuiDDiTiE, The Quip, The Size, The Win- 
dows ? These titles convey Httle information. To 
understand them one must read the poem of which 
they form an integral part. With its emotion they 
are filled, and from it they derive their signifi- 
cance. When the poem is read, and one has come 
into sympathy with it, how fully and with what 
originality they epitomize it ! Here, as ever, Her- 
bert demands his reader's patience and imagina- 
tion, himself doing little to smooth the path of 
approach. For gaining a hearing, this is an error; 
but it is one to which a solitary soul is liable, and 



154 THE STYLE 

one which, reveahng that soul more fully, increases 
the permanent worth of the utterance. 

But a second sort of intricacy in Herbert's verse 
publicity could not have cured. It is inherent in 
his theme, for his is a poetry of struggle. It deals 
with clashing desires. Herbert himself called it 
a picture of the many spiritual Conflicts that have 
past betwixt God and my Soul. For such conflict the 
general reader is unfortunately not prepared. The 
epithet " Holy " early became attached to Herbert's 
name. Vaughan uses it in his Preface to Silex 
Scintillans, and again in his poem The Match. 
Oley adopts it in his second Preface to The Coun- 
try Parson, as does Walton in the fifth chapter of 
The Complete Angler. It thus became estabhshed ; 
but a more misleading epithet could not have been 
devised. The thoughts which it suggests hide 
Herbert from our view. By a holy man we mean 
a whole man, i. e. one for whom the partition be- 
tween divine and human things has been broken 
down. He is one in whom the pain of obedience 
is ended, and whose feelings and acts now natu- 
rally accord with God's. The mystics are of this 
holy, monistic type : Crashaw, Traheme, Madame 
Guyon. Herbert is steadily dualistic. For him there 
is ever a contrast between God's ways and man's, 
and his problem is how to bring the two together 
without undue loss to either. To the last he never 
settles the question. God's law has worth, but so 
have his own desires, his own ambitions. 



THE STYLE 155 

His stufje is flesh, not hrasse ; his senses live. 
And grumble oft that they have more in him 
Then he that curbs them. 

He always remains 

A wonder tortur'd in the space 
Betwixt this world and that of grace. 

The story of the clash within his own breast of 
these mighty opposites is too real and typically 
human to be told with smoothness. Smoothness 
and ease of comprehension characterize the poets 
of the eighteenth century, men far more artificial 
than the men of the seventeenth. Indeed, I believe 
it will be found that the most lucid periods of our 
language are the least sincere, and that writers 
peculiarly intricate are often at the same time 
peculiarly sweet, tender, and veracious. What 
startling insights into reahty has Donne ! And how 
inevitably we distrust the lucidity of Pope ! These 
metaphysical poets often seem artificial because 
they observe profoundly and speak individually. 

Yet privacy and lack of inner harmony were 
only subordinate causes of Herbert's obscurity. 
Its fundamental ground lies in the mental ex- 
uberance of his age, to which I alluded at the 
beginning of this essay. The joy in eventful living 
which marks the age of Elizabeth did not pass 
away with her. It remained, though in a changed 
field. The soul of man took the place of the 
outer world, while the old dehght in daring and 



156 THE STYLE 

difficult deeds appeared in this new sphere as a 
kind of intellectual audacity and an ardent explo- 
ration of mental enigmas. To how many strange 
theories did the England of the first half of the 
seventeenth century give rise ! To exploit a new 
doctrine became more exciting than a voyage to the 
Spanish Main. Play is pleasure in one's own exer- 
tions. Accordingly, ages and individuals that have 
not lost the heart of boyhood always enjoy ob- 
stacles. Herbert certainly did, only that his excep- 
tional artistic restraint enabled him to refine and 
ennoble the extravagances of this temper. For 
system-building and the labors of the theologian 
he did not care. But with equal energy as a poet 
he threw himself into expressing complex human 
passions and the deep realities of his own Kfe. In- 
genuity he enjoyed. Anything like " smoothness " 
would have been thought by him and all his friends 
to defraud them of one of their chief pleasures : 

He who craves all the minde. 
And all the soul, and strength, and time. 

If the words onely ryme. 
Justly complains that somewhat is behinde 
To make his verse, or write a hymne in kinde. 

A frequent form in which this enjoyment of dif- 
ficulty manifests itself is condensation. To put as 
much meaning as possible into a given compass is 
a difficult feat. He is the master who can force 
words to carry a little more significance than is 



THE STYLE 157 

their wont. In this Herbert was pecuHarly skilful. 
His compactness has seldom been equalled. It 
was one of the chief reasons for the popularity of 
his book with the generation which followed him, 
and one of the chief sources of the obscurity which 
is felt by his readers to-day. Herbert loved pro- 
verbs, his own or those of others. He formed an 
extensive collection of them, published after his 
death under the title of Jacula Prudentum. To 
his mind sententiousness was ever honorable. But 
taste has changed. We hke our mental nutri- 
ment more loosely mixed. Even to his contempo- 
raries Herbert seemed hard in the grain. What 
Walton makes him say of his body is equally true 
of his style : He had too thoughtful a Wit, a Wit 
like a penknife in too narrow a sheath, too sharp 
for his body. 

Herbert's style, then, is difficult because of the 
compact abundance of his thought, because in it 
we hear the jarring of moods only half harmonized, 
because it has not been studied with immediate 
reference to the public eye, and because of historic 
changes in our language. But such defects are vir- 
tues, too. Calling on a reader, though they do, for 
a large amount of study, for time and sympathetic 
attention, they reward him with the disclosure of 
a rich, pathetic, and individual personality. In 
Herbert's most intricate obscurity there is no care- 
lessness or clumsiness, no vagueness or wilfulness. 
Undoubtedly he does occasionally exhibit violence 



158 THE STYLE 

and bad taste. But I believe that, tried by the 
standard which had then been reached, he has 
exceptional restraint of style. The last section of 
this paper shall be devoted to the negative task 
of showing how his artistic sense saved him from 
the worst enormities of his unlicensed age. Let us 
see what Herbert did not do. 



VI 

I HAVE already remarked how, during the first 
half of the seventeenth century, language and 
its accompanying refinements of thought were 
studied by the Western nations as they never had 
bieen studied before. Following the increase of 
comfort and splendor in the appointments of daily 
life came the desire for elegance of speech. The 
great creative periods, too, of literature were draw- 
ing to a close, and the decadent tendency to mag- 
nify the literary instrument was asserting itself. 
Under many forms this tendency appeared. It 
sprang up in England just before Herbert's birth 
as Euphuism; during his life it ravaged Italy as 
Marinism ; six years before his death Gongora 
died, who set the fashion in Spain ; and shortly 
after his death it appeared in France as Precio- 
site. Each time and country shows its own variety 
of the common movement, but all alike aim at 
fashioning a literary language which shall be 
removed from that of the vulgar. Poetry fosters 



THE STYLE 159 

such aims. No poet except Wordsworth was ever 
willing to call a spade a spade, though most poets 
avoid the worse vulgarity of calling it an agricul- 
tural implement. These men did not. Even the 
greatest of them inflates his phrase. Milton talks 
of hens as " tame villatic fowl " (Samson Agonistes, 
1. 1695). In a sophisticated time paraphrases, an- 
titheses, inversions, paradoxes, — every form of 
language is welcome which puts a gulf between the 
common man and the man of culture. These 
linguistic exquisites are in love with the unex- 
pected. 

Now it would be manifestly absurd to censure 
in all its forms this incUnation to intellectual and 
verbal nicety. Provided it yields an adequate 
return for thinking, a poem which makes us think 
is none the worse on that account. Our fathers 
judged it better. Later, as the liking for mental 
exertion declined, a term of abuse was invented 
which has ever since lent aid and comfort to 
thoughtless attacks upon thought. A poet who 
packs his phrase is said to be full of "conceits." 
That is the word. I have sought far and wide for 
a definition of it, but can find nothing precise. 
Perhaps it is incapable of precise definition, a 
kind of word of degrees, meaning merely that the 
writer is more ingenious than his critic likes, and 
that he sees in his subject wider relations than 
altogether suit modem taste. But there are base 
conceits and noble ones. By the base I mean 



160 THE STYLE 

those where ingenuity is sought for its own sake. 
These disregard the feeUng which should run deep 
and formative throughout a poem. They draw 
attention from the whole and fix it on the parts, 
the writer meanwhile obtruding himself at the 
expense of his subject. These faults are most 
manifest in illustrations. Without the ever-pre- 
sent words "as" and "like," a poet cannot pro- 
ceed ; for it is his business not so much directly to 
describe as to let us see into the heart of things, 
and there discover the feelings which agitate his 
breast. But a poet who is in pursuit of novelty, 
and is pleased with intellectual play, is in danger 
of tracing similarities so remote or superficial that 
they part company with what shoiild be illustrated; 
and these are base conceits. 

But there are noble ones, too. A mind aglow 
with meditative feeling finds its mood reflected 
from every object that meets its sight or remem- 
brance. Emotional association has a wonderful 
power of transforming small things to great, re- 
mote to near, things rarely thought of to luminous 
expositors of the customary. Just in proportion 
to a poet's power will be his readiness for such 
wide-ranging insight. An unimpassioned reader, 
who has not brought himself into full sympathy 
with the emotion described, may judge much to 
be artificial which is in reality tenderly exact. A 
passage of pregnant unusualness, whose full im- 
port cannot be caught at once, is easily denounced 



THE STYLE 161 

as a conceit. I would not defend the substitution 
of puzzles for poetry; but the test for a conceit is, 
after all, simple. Does it by thought exclude feel- 
ing, or does it through thought embody feeling in 
some new, individual, and subtle way ? 

That Herbert occasionally indulges in conceits 
of the baser sort — mental escapades, unprompted 
by emotion — is undeniable. So did every poet from 
Shakespeare to Dry den, with the possible excep- 
tion of Herrick. Herbert's master, Donne, has 
half a dozen to every page. Quarles has as many, 
Crashaw systematizes them. He writes a poem to 
the weeping Magdalen, in each of whose thirty- 
three stanzas her tears are contemplated from 
some fresh angle. John Cleveland, of whose 
poems five editions were published in 1647, thus 
laments Edward King, Milton's Lycidas : 

"In thee Neptune hath got an University. 
We'll dive no more for pearls; the hope to see 
Thy sacred reliques of mortality 
Shall welcome storms and make the seaman prize 
His shipwreck now more than his merchandize." 

In his poem of Easter Herbert himself writes : 

Awake, my Ivte, and struggle for thy part 
With all thy art : 

The crosse taught all wood to resound his name 
Who bore the same ; 

His streched sinews taught all strings what key 

Is best to celebrate this most high day. 



162 THE STYLE 

Another Herbertian example, and one quite in 
the spirit of Crashaw, is from Marie Magdalene : 

When blessed Marie wip'd her Saviour^s feet, 
(Whose precepts she had trampled on before,) 

And wore them for a Jewell on her head, 
Shewing his steps should be the street 
Wherein she thenceforth evermore 

With pensive humblenesse would live and tread. 

And one more I take from The Sacrifice : 

Behold, they spit on me in scornfull wise 
Who by my spittle gave the blinde man eies. 
Leaving his blindnesse to mine enemies. 

These are pretty bad. The thought is certainly 
forced. But it would be a mistake to suppose such 
cases common. In general, Herbert's artistic 
sense saves him. He is too much interested in 
welding together form and matter to allow such 
vagaries. And on reflection these may seem ex- 
amples not so much of conceits as of bad taste, — 
a frequent fault with Herbert, and one due in 
part to what I have called the privacy of his com- 
position. Abstracting attention from this, we may 
detect even in these extravagant lines brooding 
feeling. The emotional sequence is not untrue. 
In the worst sort of conceits it is. When Laertes 
first hears of Ophelia's drowning, Shakespeare 
makes him say: 



THE STYLE 163 

"Too much of water hast thou, poor Ophelia, 
And therefore I forbid my tears." 

Of course we know that no such words ever came 
from the lips of a loving brother. Herbert is 
incapable of such perversity. He never quite 
departs from truth of feeling. In the instances 
cited, it is not impossible to feel that all subse- 
quent wood sympathizes with the wood of the cross ; 
or to imagine that the hostile spittle of his foes 
recalls to Jesus his pity for the bUnd. Even the 
notorious couplet of The Dawning, 

Christ left his grave-clothes that we mighty when grief 
Draws tears or hloud, not ward an handkerchief, 

is not untrue or really capricious. Christ's grave- 
clothes are not mentioned as picturesque pieces 
of accidental linen. They have in Herbert's mind 
an essentially healing connection with our griefs. 

Seldom, however, does Herbert venture into these 
perilous regions, familiar as they are to most of 
his contemporaries. What are called his conceits 
are usually cases of condensed imagination. They 
need no apology. On the contrary, they show a 
restraint and coherence of mood which were 
exceptional three hundred years ago. The fol- 
lowing stanza from Employment well illustrates 
their method, their difficulties, and the grounds 
for admiration which careful reading discloses : 
Man is no starre, hvt a quick coal 
Of mortall fire ; 



164 THE STYLE 

Who blows it not, nor doth controll 

A faint desire. 
Lets his own ashes choke his soul. 

Here we have the frequent trouble of words whose 
ancient sense has changed, quick formerly meaning 
living, and faint, fainting. But when it is clear 
what the words mean, how fresh and subtle is the 
figure ! The powers of man are not fixed and per- 
manent like those of the star; but, tending of them- 
selves to decay, perpetually need rekindling. Or 
take the last stanza of Sion: 

And truly brasse and stones are heavie things, 
Tombes for the dead, not temples fit for thee. 
But grones are quick and full of wings. 

And all their motions upward be. 
And ever as they mount, like larks they sing. 
The note is sad, yet musick for a king. 

How permeated by a single feeling are all these 
well-considered phrases ! Or take from Longing 
an example which shall indicate Herbert's com- 
pactness as well : 

Frcrni thee all pitie flows. 

Mothers are kinde because thou art, ' 

And dost dispose 

To them a part. 

Their infants them ; and they suck thee 

More free. 

I do not deny that everywhere in Herbert there is 



THE STYLE 165 

intellectual effort, and that he demands a corre- 
sponding effort on his reader's part. That was the 
enjoyment of his age, and might well be more 
largely our own. As flames do work and winde 
when they ascend^ so does he weave himself into 
the sense. But I believe that whoever scrutinizes 
carefully will agree that to an extent unusual in 
his time Herbert maintains the character of a poet 
and refuses that of a "wit." His weaving is not 
executed for elegance or display, but is a subtle 
tracing of religious passion in words which, though 
compact with thought and sometimes too forceful, 
are plain, veracious, and of highly individual 
quahty. 

Nor is Herbert's sobriety notable merely in the 
matter of conceits. It extends to other literary 
extravagances then in vogue. There is no acrostic 
among his poems, and but a single emblem poem, 
— one of exceeding beauty. He has but one ana- 
gram. At a time when poets prided themselves 
on puns, he uses few, and none of them jocosely^ 
Verbal relationships arouse his curiosity, but never 
stir his mirth. The following is, I believe, a com- 
plete list: dispark and sparkling in The Fore- 
runners; do thee right (write) in Providence; 
heaven and haven in The Size; holy and wholly 
in Heaven; I ease you in Jesu; raise and race 
in The Temper and The Sacrifice; rest and 
restlessness in The Pulley; strokes and stroking 
in The Thanksgiving; sonne and sunne several 



166 THE STYLE 

times repeated and once discussed at length. Until 
within the last two hundred years, few writers of 
our language have abused it so little. 

There is a similar abstinence in classical allu- 
sions. According to the taste of that day a poet 
was expected continually to refer to the gods and 
history of ancient Greece and Rome. Milton does 
so, as much when he deals with sacred subjects as 
with secular. Herbert's Latin poems, his Latin 
letters and orations, abound in such allusions. 
In the whole Temple I find only these few in- 
stances : in Artillerie the music of the spheres 
is mentioned ; in Discipline Love's bow ; in Di- 
viNiTiE the Gordian knot ; in Home the apple may 
be thought of as the lover's fruit ; in The Invita- 
tion the dove appears as the bird of love ; in The 
Pearl there is mention of a labyrinth and a clue; 
in Thanksgiving Ovid's Art of Love may be re- 
ferred to; in The Sonne possibly Plato's torch- 
race is hinted ; and in Time possibly Homer's pic- 
ture of the Guide-god Hermes. Several of these are 
decidedly questionable; but even if all are admit- 
ted, how astonishing small is the list ! What sobri- 
ety and harmonious taste appears in the almost 
complete refusal on Herbert's part to conform to 
an incongruous literary fashion which his educa- 
tion peculiarly fitted him gracefully to accept ! 

On the whole, then, we may say that Herbert 
chooses wise means for reaching his special ends. 
He is the first of our lyric poets who can fairly 



THE STYLE 167 

be called a conscious artist : the first who syste- 
matically tries to shape each of his short poems 
by a predetermined plan, and that, too, a plan 
involved in the nature of his subject. He is the 
first who tries to cut off the extravagances of an 
over-luxuriant age. That he did not fully succeed 
is evident. He was a pioneer. He was working 
in private, on themes expressive of conflict, while 
knowing very fully and sharing to a large degree 
the ideals of his contemporaries. But he was in 
possession of a new method, and one of enor- 
mous importance. That he was able to apply it 
so widely is one of his two great achievements. 



Latin poems from the Williams Manuscript in Herbert's own hand. 
See Vol. I, p. 179, and compare with the handun-itin(j of Vol. V, 
p. C and €'/. 



n 



1,','^i^f^t^ m jtHehi'''. oy^niit^/ ^'•h^'"' 

^bj-ynk ^hJ»/ if^.fc, ix^'x^/ff' 



■,ChiLni. fj?thi^^ 



ChiiKU rfu^i^^n^- Ufh^T^ M^^ f^^^ 



o'^ 



'H 



H^JoJ-krt 



Ifui^ U, ^'hc^i ^ /u«- ,^'yni>^ ^^' 



THE TEXT AND ORDER OF POEMS 



THE TEXT AND ORDER OF POEMS 

NONE of the English poems of Herbert were 
printed during his hfe. All have been trans- 
mitted to us through an intermediary. Who this 
intermediary was, what were his character and 
competence, and what the circumstances attend- 
ing his pecuUar charge, must first be made clear 
before the grave textual problems of Herbert's 
Httle volume can be understood. 



ABOUT a month before Herbert's death, his 
friend, Nicholas Ferrar, sent a messenger to 
Bemerton to obtain an account of his condition. 
Herbert was already weak and lying on a couch. 
At the messenger's departure, says Walton, "Mr. 
Herbert with a thoughtful and contented look said 
to him, Sir, I pray deliver this little Book to my 
dear brother Ferrar, and tell him he shall find in it 
a picture of the many spiritual Conflicts that have 
past betwixt God and my Soul, before I could sub- 
ject mine to the will of Jesus, my Master. Desire 
him to read it; and then, if he can think it may 
turn to the advantage of any dejected poor Soul, 
let it be made publick. If not, let him bum it; for 



172 THE ORDER 

I and it are less than the least of God's mercies. 
Thus meanly did this humble man think of this 
excellent Book, which now bears the name of The 
Temple: or Sacred Poems and Private Ejac- 
ulations, of which Mr. Ferrar would say that it 
would enrich the World with pleasure and piety. 
And it appears to have done so; for there have been 
more than twenty thousand of them sold since the 
first Impression;" i. e. in less than forty years. 

Nicholas Ferrar, to whom Herbert thus en- 
trusted the fortunes of his verse, was born in the 
same year as Herbert and Walton, and was the 
son of a wealthy London merchant. He took his 
Bachelor's degree at Cambridge two years before 
Herbert, travelled on the Continent, acquired much 
skill in language and literature, succeeded his 
father as Deputy Manager of the Virginia Com- 
pany, was for a year a member of Parliament, pre- 
ferred cehbacy to a brilHant marriage, and in 16£5 
withdrew from the world, estabUshing himself, 
his aged mother, his brother, his sister and her 
eighteen children, on a large estate which he pur- 
chased at Little Gidding, in Huntingdonshire. 
On account of its extreme conventual regimen, 
this place soon acquired the name of The Pro- 
testant Nunnery. Each member of the household 
had a fixed assignment of work and worship. 
ReHgion, study, music, and handicraft filled every 
hour of the day, and a considerable portion of the 
night. Apart from prayer, book-binding was the 



THE ORDER 173 

favorite occupation. Several "Concordances," or 
Harmonies of the Gospels and of Jewish history, 
made at Gidding and bound in sumptuous style, 
have survived to our time. 

The temper of Ferrar — at once a religious 
devotee and a strong man of affairs, who sought 
in an original fashion to estabHsh a Httle Heaven 
upon earth where he and his might dwell in peace, 
order, and beauty — was singularly congenial to 
Herbert. He himself, it is true, had Kttle of Fer- 
rar's ascetic disposition. He did not practise fasts 
and vigils. But he admired Ferrar's devotion to 
God and his own soul, he felt the sanity of mind 
which Ferrar preserved through all his pious ex- 
ercises, and he understood the business ability 
which made that daring experimental hf e success- 
ful. Like Herbert, too, Ferrar had become a 
deacon, but still withheld himself from priest's 
orders. During the last seven years of Herbert's 
Ufe, Ferrar and he were close friends, — friends 
indeed more of heart and mind than of outward 
intercourse. Oley says that the two "saw not each 
other in many years, I think scarce ever, but as 
Members of one Universitie." Walton writes that 
"this holy friendship was long maintain'd without 
any interview, but only by loving and endearing 
Letters." That the friendship was quite so im- 
palpable as these statements assert is unUkely. 
Herbert and Ferrar had been fellow students at 
the University, where Herbert remained when 



174 THE ORDER 

Ferrar settled at Gidding, less than twenty miles 
away. The year following that settlement, Her- 
bert became Lay Prebendary of Leighton, about 
five miles from Ferrar's door, and for the rebuild- 
ing of its church raised among his friends a fund 
of £2000. To this fund Ferrar was a contributor. 
Herbert repeatedly begged Ferrar to relieve him of 
the prebend ; but, true to his plan of retirement, 
he refused, though he promised to oversee the 
work of reconstruction. Herbert may never have 
visited the church for which he labored seven years 
and which he also remembered in his will. No visit 
is recorded. But such persistent absenteeism is 
difficult to believe, especially during the years be- 
fore the Bemerton priesthood. Probably during the 
Leighton period meetings did occur and the real 
intimacy of the two men became established, 
letters and the exchange of literary products keep- 
ing the friendship warm during the isolation of 
Bemerton. Four months before his death Her- 
bert annotated Ferrar's translation of Valdesso's 
Divine Considerations, and in his last illness 
prayers for him were said at Gidding. When the 
poems, long circulated in manuscript, finally sought 
the press, no sponsor of more sympathetic temper, 
or of finer or firmer judgment, could be found 
than Nicholas Ferrar. 

Ferrar acted promptly, applying at once for a 
license. But a curious delay occurred. The official 
censor, the Vice-Chancellor of Cambridge, was 



THE ORDER 175 

unwilling to sanction these lines of The Church 
Militant: 

Religion stands on tip-toe in our land 
Ready to pass to the American strand. 

Ferrar, however, refused to alter anything that 
Herbert had written, and ^finally obtained the re- 
quired license. The book was issued soon after 
Herbert's death in 1633, a few copies being 
printed without date, and was so successful that 
a second edition appeared in the same year. To 
the sixth edition, that of 1641, Harvey's Synagogue 
was unhappily added. Corruptions of the perplex- 
ing text crept in early and continued long. It was 
not until 1874 that critical revision of the text can 
be said to have begun. 



II 

FOR fixing a text, three original sources are 
available. First and most authoritative is 
Ferrar's edition. I shall refer to this as the edition 
of 1633. Wherever this gives sense, even inferior 
sense, I follow it. Ferrar had Herbert's latest 
manuscript, he had literary perception, and that 
he had a literary conscience is shown by his stern 
treatment of the censor's objections. The book is 
a piece of careful printing. Departure from its text 
requires large justification. 

But there is a second authoritative source, so 



176 THE ORDER 

tending to corroborate the first as to be almost one 
with it. In the Bodleian Library at Oxford is a 
manuscript (Tanner Manuscript, 307) which was 
apparently at one time in the possession of Arch- 
bishop Bancroft (1617-1693). On the title-page is 
written in his hand, " The Original of Mr. George 
Herbert's Temple, as it was at first Hcenced for 
the presse. W. Sancroft." The title-page bears 
also the signature of B. Lany, the Vice-Chancellor, 
and of four other persons, presumably the judges 
to whom the book was submitted. That it is the 
"little Book" brought by Ferrar's messenger has 
been thought improbable both on account of its 
f oho size and because it is too clean to have passed 
through the printer's hands. But I cannot count 
these objections formidable. Just how clean 
printers' hands at that time were, we do not know; 
and a pretty adjective used by so picturesque a 
writer as Walton is not a matter to pin one's faith 
to. The word "httle" may well have been used 
to indicate the small number of poems which the 
book contained, only one hundred and sixty-nine. 
It may have been equivalent to "brief," and have 
had no reference to the size of the volume's sheets. 
The five signatures make it almost certain that 
this is the copy submitted for license; and if so, it 
is probably the copy used for printing. For it is 
unlikely that a ciensor so careful as Vice-Chancellor 
Lany showed himself to be would allow a book to 
be printed which might differ from the one he had 



THE ORDER 177 

licensed. The character of the manuscript, too, 
favors the supposition that this copy was prepared 
for the printer. It is not in Herbert's handwriting, 
but has been drawn up by a good copyist, who uses 
throughout an ink generally black and clear. In 
yellowish ink many small changes have been made, 
chiefly of punctuation, spelling, capitals, and the 
numbering of the stanzas in The Church-Porch. 
This last revision looks as if it were made for the 
printer, and by some one else than the original 
writer. But whether this is the very manuscript 
sent by Herbert to Ferrar or not, the differences 
between it and Ferrar's edition are so few that its 
influence in determining a true text is chiefly col- 
lateral and confirmatory. In the notes I refer to it 
as B, or the Bodleian Manuscript, and give all its 
variations of reading. 

Until recently these two, the edition of 1633 and 
the Bodleian Manuscript, have been our sole means 
of knowing what Herbert wrote. That untiring, if 
often whimsical, explorer of the poetry of Elizabeth 
and James, Dr. Grosart, has added a third. In 
, 1874, when preparing an edition of Herbert for the 
Fuller Worthies' Library, he drew from its hiding- 
place in the Williams Library, Gordon Square, 
London, a manuscript which up to that time had 
remained unused (Jones Manuscript, B, 62). Lit- 
tle is known about it now. The fly-leaf bears the 
inscription "Don: Jni. Jones Cler. e museo V. CI. 
D. H. M. Verrantodum, qui ob. 1730," which has 



178 THE ORDER 

been translated, " A gift to John Jones, Clerk, from 
the library of the celebrated Dr. H. Mapletoft, 
Huntingdon, who died 1730." On the next leaf, 
in the same hand, presumably that of Mr. Jones, 
is written, "This book came originally from the 
family of Little Gidding and was probably bound 
there. Q. Whether this be not the Ms. copy that 
was sent by Mr. Herbert a Httle before his death to 
Mr. Nic. Ferrar ? See Mr. Herbert's Life." Who, 
then, is John Jones, and who is H. M. ? 

Rev. John Jones (1700-1770) was an Oxford 
graduate, who was for a time Vicar of Alconbury, 
near Huntingdon, and died as Vicar of Sheephall, 
Herts. At his death his papers came into the 
possession of Dr. Thomas Dawson, a dissenting 
minister, and they are now in the Wilhams Library. 
The only reason I can discover for supposing that 
H. M. stands for Henry Mapletoft is that the name 
occurs again in manuscript 87 of the Jones papers. 
Another Mapletoft, Dr. John (1631-1721), was a 
son of Susanna Collet, Nicholas Ferrar's niece. 
He was Ferrar's godson, brought up at Little 
Gidding, became an eminent Professor of Physic 
at Gresham College, and later a clergyman of wide 
influence. Neither of his two sons was named 
Henry, nor have I been able to learn how the 
H. M. of the manuscript was related to him. But 
whether its former owner was or was not a Idns- 
man of Ferrar, at least so much is clear : John 
Jones derived the manuscript from some hbrary 



THE ORDER 179 

in Huntingdonshire to which he supposed it came 
from the neighboring Little Gidding. Probably, 
therefore, it was at one time in the possession of 
Nicholas Ferrar. 

This cannot, however, be the manuscript ob- 
tained by Ferrar from Herbert just before the lat- 
ter's death. While its size, duodecimo, accords well 
with Walton's description, it contains but seventy- 
three of the one hundred and sixty-nine poems of 
the Bodleian. It has also many poems which are 
found neither in the Bodleian Manuscript nor in 
the edition of 1633, viz., six English poems, and 
two series of Latin poems, entitled Passio Dis- 
CERPTA and Lucus. Preceding the Latin poems is 
the pencil note, "The following supposed to be 
Mr. Herbert's own writing. See the Records in the 
custody of the University Orator at Cambridge." 
That the writing is Herbert's is unquestionable. 
The English^poems are written by a different hand, 
though the hand which has corrected them is the 
same as that of the Latin poems. 

The departures of this manuscript from the re- 
ceived text are great and numerous. Few poems 
are without them. In The Church-Porch ninety- 
four of the four hundred and sixty-two lines vary 
from the received text. This mass of fresh mate- 
rial Dr. Grosart treats as no less worthy of respect 
than the traditional readings, and he has formed 
the text of his two editions from this manuscript 
or from the edition of 1633, according as his poetic 



180 THE ORDER 

taste approves the one or the other. I do not ven- 
ture so far. In my notes I have recorded all the 
WiUiams and Bodleian readings, indicating the 
former by the letter W, the latter by the letter B ; 
but I have held to Ferrar's text, retaining even its 
spelling and capitals, and changing only its punc- 
tuation. 

I agree, however, with those who count the 
Williams Manuscript of capital consequence in 
Herbert scholarship, and dissent from them merely 
in my judgment of where that consequence lies. 
They find it in the poetic worth of the readings, 
I in their indications of date. Neither they nor I 
have any doubt of its genuineness, or that it repre- 
sents a state of the poems earlier than the Bod- 
leian. It was a common practice with the poets 
of those days to circulate their verses in manuscript, 
and one which had many advantages. It allowed 
continual alteration till death fell on the unsatis- 
fied poet and stopped further improvement. Few 
of Donne's poems were pubHshed during his fife; 
none of Sidney's Sonnets to Stella. Shakespeare's 
Sonnets were long circulated in manuscript before 
being surreptitiously printed. Undoubtedly it is 
to this custom of private circulation that the 
Williams volume owes its existence. It is a manu- 
script lent early in its writer's Ufe to a friend, 
probably to Mr. Ferrar, containing most of Her- 
bert's verse which was written at the time of its 
lending. But its poems were still undergoing con- 



THE ORDER 181 

struction, and the process did not cease with the 
departure of this particular copy from its author's 
hands. Its Knes were subsequently filed. Stanzas 
appear in it which in the Bodleian Manuscript 
were thought superfluous. Conceits and dubious 
constructions are permitted here more frequently 
than afterward. Let any one read the beautiful 
Even-Song of the Bodleian, and then the awkward 
verses in the Williams Manuscript which it sup- 
planted; let him read the double version of the 
opening of The Church-Porch, of the Elixer, 
or of Sunday; the closing verses of Jordan, of 
Charms and Knots, or of Whitsunday; and 
he will be convinced that it is the Bodleian and 
not the WilHams Manuscript which represents 
the maturer taste of its writer. That is certainly the 
impression given by these longer variations. But 
the general inferiority of the Williams readings 
becomes increasingly evident when we test them 
in a connected group of brief examples. Such a 
group I draw from The Church-Porch. In each 
case I give the Williams reading first and then the 
Bodleian : 

2. The price of thee, and mark thee for a treasure. 
Thy rate and price, and mark thee for a treasure. 

51. Lust and wine plead a pleasure, cheating, gaine. 
Lust and wine plead a pleasure, avarice, gain. 

91. England ! full of all sinn, most of sloth. 
England ! fidl of sinne, but most of sloth. 



182 THE ORDER 

200. Learn this, it hath old gamesters dearly cost. 
Learn this, that hath old gamesters deerely cost. 

265. When base men are exalted, do not bate. 
When basenesse is exalted, do not bate. 

317. Truth dwels not in the clouds ; that bow doth hitt 
No more than passion when she talks of it. 
Truth dwels not in the clouds ; the bow that 's there 
Doth opin aim at, never hit the sphere. 

326. Need and bee glad and wish thy presence still. 
Both want and wish thy pleasing presence still. 

347. Who say, I care not, those I give for gone ; 
They dye in holes where glory never shone. 
Who say, I care not, those I give for lost ; 
And to instruct them, *t will not quit the cost. 

Nobody can fail to see that between the first and 
second of each of these pairs, time and a smoothing 
artist have intervened. The very dehcacy of some 
of the changes, and of many more which Hmited 
space forbids me to quote, shows that the critic has 
been at work, contriving means to ease the reader's 
attention, while at the same time filling the line 
with ampler and more precise significance. 

I, accordingly, altogether reject the readings of 
the Williams Manuscript, and conform my text 
entirely to that of the edition of 1633. The Wil- 
liams Manuscript, I believe, represents a state of 
Herbert's poetry which had been outgrown. To 
adopt its text is to set up our judgment against that 



THE ORDER 183 

of its author. But though discarding its readings, 
I still count it of capital importance in Herbert 
criticism. Poetically superseded, it is nothing less 
than epoch-making chronologically ; for if we can 
prove that the Williams Manuscript was written 
before the Bodleian, we may find in it a means 
of sorting the poetry of Herbert and of distinguish- 
ing an earlier and a later portion. Let me, then, 
estabUsh this all-important fact through three con- 
verging lines of evidence. 



HI 

AN obvious indication of early date is found in 
the fewness of the Williams poems and the 
position these few occupy in the edition of 1633. 
If all Herbert's poems were in existence when the 
Williams Manuscript was written, it is strange such 
a selection was made, copied, and elaborately cor- 
rected. The selection was certainly not made on 
grounds of the excellence of the poems included, 
nor because of any unity in their topic. They have 
no more inner connection than the same number 
taken accidentally from any other part of the book. 
And while there are a dozen of them which rank 
high among Herbert's poems, the majority are of 
an average sort, poems more marked by Herbert's 
peculiarities than by the traits which commend 
him to all time. If we may assume that the man- 
uscript includes the bulk of what had then been 



184 THE ORDER 

written, all is clear. In that ease also we could 
understand why these poems, being early, stand 
early in the arrangement of the Bodleian. In that 
manuscript, and in the edition of 1633, no Wil- 
liams poem appears between the seventy-ninth and 
the one hundred and fifty-sixth place. Though 
among the seven which in the traditional order are 
usually printed after the one hundred and fifty- 
sixth, six are from the Williams Manuscript, the 
position of these final poems is evidently due to 
their general subject, — Death and the Last Judg- 
ment. It is true that out of the first seventy-nine, 
eighteen are not Wilhams poems. But many of 
these, e. g. The Agonie, Sepulchre, Antiphon, 
The Windows, probably owe their places to their 
congruity with neighboring poems. It should be 
remembered, too, that in asserting, as I beheve we 
must, that all the poems of the Williams Manu- 
script are early, we do not necessarily say that every 
one found elsewhere is late. Single poems may 
have existed at the time this manuscript was lent 
which did not happen to be copied into it. 

But the early date of the Williams Manuscript 
is still more plainly shown by the character of its 
readings. To these I have already called atten- 
tion. Their very inferiority is what gives the 
manuscript worth, for it justifies us in using it as 
a document for dating. Strangely enough, this has 
not been generally perceived. The readings have 
been treated as. weighty, though the manuscript is 



THE ORDER 185 

counted early. But the two things are incompat- 
ible, unless indeed Herbert was a bad critic. There 
is no evidence that he was. Accordingly, when of 
two manuscripts one shows on almost every page 
duller or more wayward readings, we may fairly 
conclude that it belongs to its writer's earUer years. 
That the Williams readings are prevaiUngly duller, 
I have already proved in the case of The Church- 
Porch. Let any one examine the shorter poems as 
they staled in the printed text and as they appear 
in the Williams version, given in my appendix, 
and they will lead him to the same conclusion. We 
have before us in the one case a finished result, in 
the other, a preUminary draft. 

A third sort of evidence, even more important 
for fijcing the early date of the Williams Manu- 
script, is found in a hitherto unobserved fact of 
its subject-matter. In 1630 Herbert became a 
priest. Now no WilUams poem contains any hint 
that its author is a priest. Many distinctly state 
that he is not. A large part of the non- Williams 
poems deal with the joys and perplexities of the 
priesthood. It is impossible, then, that the Wil- 
liams Manuscript can have been written at Bemer- 
ton. And this peculiarity of its contents, coinciding, 
as it does, with the character of its readings and 
the position which the much-corrected Williams 
poems occupy in the Bodleian Manuscript, assures 
us that Herbert wrote poetry long before he went 
to Bemerton. It has sometimes been carelessly 



186 THE ORDER 

asserted that the seclusion of his last three years 
made him a poet. But Bacon knew him to be a 
notable religious poet eight years before his death. 
The Wilhams Manuscript proves that when Her- 
bert went into retirement, he took with him nearly 
half his poetic work. At this time, he had both 
written and elaborately altered a large body of 
verse which he was still farther to perfect in the 
Bemerton parsonage. / ojten, he says in Jordan, 
blotted what I had hegunne. Herbert must here- 
after stand forth not as a sudden rhapsodist, but 
as an intentional, long-continued, and ever-revising 
workman. 

How much earlier than 1630, the year when 
Herbert took priest's orders, the Wilhams Manu- 
script was written, is uncertain. In the great 
Affliction, When first thou didst entice to thee 
my hearty the laments on the death of friends, and 
on Herbert's severe illness and mental perplexity, 
indicate that this poem was written in the Crisis 
years between 1627 and 1629. With this period 
Walton also connects it. Several other Williams 
poems contain hints that they were born in the 
same time of disappointment and struggle. But 
most of those which refer to this period (and it 
was one likely to leave its mark on whatever was 
produced in it) are found among the non- Williams 
poems ; for example. The Priesthood, in which 
he is still hesitating about taking orders. A deci- 
sion, however, appears to be reached in The 



THE ORDER 187 

Pearl and Obedience, both included in the early 
manuscript. Most probably, then, the Williams 
Manuscript was drawn up about 1629, but not all 
the poems written during this and the preced- 
ing year were copied into it. Since the history of 
the manuscript connects it with Little Gidding, 
my own conjecture is that these poems were lent 
to Ferrar after he and Herbert became intimate 
through the building of Leighton Church. This 
would also justify Ferrar's prompt publication of 
the final work. Many of the poems he already 
knew, and he had no need of taking time to deter- 
mine their worth. 



IV 

ASSUMING, then, that through the WiUiams 
Manuscript we know that as early as 1628-29 
nearly half of Herbert's work was in existence, we 
are able to rearrange the poems and give them an 
order more advantageous for study and enjoyment. 
In justification of the traditional order no grounds 
are known. Ferrar found it in the Bodleian Manu- 
script, and followed it in his own printing. The 
Williams Manuscript does not preserve it. The 
poems do not require it. Probably it was originally 
accidental. Occasionally, little groups of poems 
may give indication of a natural tie, the later mem- 
bers of a group being possibly drawn after the 
earlier by some inner similarity, some dependence 



188 THE ORDER 

of subject, or some expansion of a phrase once 
used. But such connection is rare and uncertain. 
After the first start, the poems were apparently 
jotted down without plan. In the traditional order 
there is, therefore, nothing sacred, probably no- 
thing expressive of Herbert's mind or wish, 
nothing to forbid whatever new arrangement is 
more luminous. The most instructive order for all 
poetry, it is agreed, is the chronological. Though 
the evidence in Herbert's case, whether drawn 
from the Williams Manuscript or from the style 
and statements of the poems themselves, is too 
slender to establish a thoroughgoing chronological 
sequence, I believe it is ample for distinguishing 
three great Divisions of poems corresponding to 
the three periods of Herbert's life marked out in 
my first Essay. We shall accordingly have poems 
of the Cambridge period, extending from the be- 
ginning of his writing through his Oratorship to 
1627; of the Crisis period, from that date through 
the years of stress and strain to the time of his 
taking orders in 1630; and poems of the Bemerton 
period, when as a priest he served his little parish 
from 1630 until his death. In the first of these 
three Divisions will be included the great majority 
of the Williams poems ; in the second, such Williams 
and non-Williams poems as contain a reference to 
Herbert's uncertainty about his coming career; in 
the third, the majority of the non-Williams poems. 
Knowing that much which was written at an early 



THE ORDER 189 

date might first appear in a late manuscript, I 
have sometimes been tempted on grounds of style 
to refer a non-Williams poem to the Cambridge 
Division. On the whole, I have considered that 
placing it there is too hazardous an exercise of 
conjecture, and I have finally allowed no poem 
to enter this Division which is not contained in 
the Williams Manuscript. Thinking it well, too, to 
give the reader some defence against my meddHng 
hand, I print an index of titles arranged accord- 
ing to the traditional scheme. 

So much chronological sorting into three broad 
Divisions, the use of the WilHams Manuscript 
seems to me to render possible. Within the limits 
of the Bemerton Division, and to a less extent else- 
where, further time-indications may be found. But 
these are too few and of too uncertain a nature 
to permit a conservative critic to venture on a 
full chronological arrangement. Within the great 
Divisions I have preferred a topical order, which 
may still throw light on the processes of Herbert's 
mind, and illuminate the poems by what is known 
of their writer through other sources. All the poems 
of the Crisis period are naturally placed together. 
Within each of the other two Divisions I have 
drawn up five subordinate sections or Groups, and 
furnished them with suitable explanatory Prefaces. 
In the first Division, covering the Cambridge years, 
the sententious morality of The Church-Porch 
naturally stands first, for Herbert apparently de-